A month or so ago, something happened. Toddler and I were relaxing on the couch watching one of her shows. I can't remember which one. And because I'm not a huge fan of Jungle Junction or Max & Ruby or whatever it is "we" were watching, I watched my little girl instead. I noted the sliver of a smile that came and went, the faint giggle that escaped her lips when some cartoon character did something she deemed particularly funny. But I also noticed something else. (Or thought I did.) I saw one of her eyes turning inward slightly as she focused on the television.
Later, I mentioned this to Husband. I also fessed up that I had recently heard a story from a fellow mother about a girl who had been losing vision in one eye for many years before her parents realized. Husband suggested that I was likely worrying over nothing, that I was perhaps projecting my own personal and professional stress (news flash: I have been stressed) on to our kid. I was not exactly offended by this interpretation. I decided this projection theory was entirely possible.
Then I thought I saw it again. The subtle turning in of one eye. It was like an optical illusion almost. I asked Toddler if she could see okay. And she said, sadly. "No, not very well." This was not good, but then again I had asked a leading question. It was when Toddler said one day that her eyes hurt that I made an appointment with a pediatric opthamologist. Husband was still pretty convinced that everything was fine, but he understood my desire to check things out.
At the appointment, I was very self-deprecating, joking to the doctor and his staff that I am probably a bit crazy. The good-humored doctor chuckled and examined my girl. Sure enough, something was up. It turns out that Toddler is a bit far-sighted and that she likely develops a headache when she starts to focus on a singular object. The doctor explained that the issue is muscular in nature and very common and will correct itself over time. With the help of full-time teeny-tiny super-cute glasses. He also said that it was very very good that I caught this - and now - because without intervention Toddler's vision could have been compromised and she might never have properly developed 3-D vision.
The night after the appointment, I met my best mommy friends for a glass of wine in the neighborhood. To be honest, I was a bit shaken by the day. I worried aloud that my tiny creature would refuse to wear her new specs. I worried that glasses would interfere in her play-play-play lifestyle. And my friends listened. And then I can't remember who said this, but I actually think it was all of them.
They said, "Aidan, you are a very good mother for noticing this and catching it."
After drinks, I returned home. When Husband returned from work, I relayed the details of the appointment to him. I told him how good Toddler was, how she sat up there in the big leather chair all alone and answered the doctor's questions. I told him about how I gave her her very first gumball at the store where we picked glasses and about how Toddler didn't quite know what to do, that she dribbled white drool down her chin. I told him how we picked two pairs of glasses: A purple one (Toddler's favorite color) and a gray and yellow pair with little squiggles up top that we would call her Sprinkle Glasses (because she adores sprinkles). I told him how we walked home from the optometrist shop and how Toddler, zapped after a long and foreign day, fell asleep on my shoulder.
And Husband, my good man, my partner in crime said: "Babe, thank you. Thank you for noticing this. You are a good mom."
* * *
Last week, we returned from vacation and it was 100+ degrees in the city. Our apartment was sweltering. It wasn't until evening when we were putting the girls to bed that we realized that their air-conditioning units had petered out. Husband found a thermometer and we learned that both girls' rooms were over ninety degrees. We stripped our kids down - Baby to her diaper and Toddler to her undies - and we put them in bed. Despite the heat, the girls did not complain.
Husband and I sat down for dinner. But he was distracted. At 8:30pm, he hopped up, told me he would see me in a bit, and left the house. As it turns out, he ran to PC Richards - which closed at 9pm - and bought two brand new air-conditioners (for the home we are about to move out of). He hoisted these monster machines into the back of the taxi and brought them home. I helped him unpack the boxes. First, we sneaked into Baby's room. She was fast asleep. Husband pulled the old air conditioner from the wall and put the new one in. All of this in the dark. Baby never stirred. Next, we sneaked into Toddler's room. She was half-awake, sweating, and curious. I told her that Daddy wanted to make her room cooler. She said okay and stayed in bed.
After 10pm, Husband, sweaty and sore, finally sat down to eat his dinner. He was quiet then, plainly exhausted. But I broke the silence because I had something to say. Something important.
"Babe, look at me."
"You are a really good dad. A really good dad."
* * *
This parenting business? It's tricky, heartbreaking stuff sometimes. Most of the time. There is no manual. There is no map. There is no compass. Whether it is an issue bigger or smaller, involving health or heat or something else, we care deeply and we try hard, don't we? And often we fail. But sometimes? Sometimes, we succeed. Sometimes, instinct or intuition or love takes over and guides us and makes things clear, and we get things right. And when we do, when we rise to the challenge, it is so important to hear those words.
You are a good parent.
Words matter. Say them.
- How often do you tell your partner that he/she is a good parent?
- How often are these words directed at you?
- Do you think much of parenting involved instinct and intuition?
- Have you ever picked up on an issue with one of your children that no one else noticed?
- Does it ever stress you out that if you don't notice the more subtle and nuanced issues with your children, no one might?
- Tell us why you are a good parent.
- Tell us why your partner is a good parent.