I remarked to my husband a few weeks ago that I am seeing a definite shift in my older son's dependence on me to an imitation of him. Any overt attempt by me to be involved in their lives by way of assistance with anything, is met by a rather stern reminder that I am not necessarily needed right now. They are men after all, and they don't need their mommy. Even my 8 year old has fleeting moments of this attitude, which I am definitely not prepared for.
My husband responded by saying he doesn't see it. I know he is frequently hurt by them acting as if he isn't even there. He actually stated that he feels his absence would have more effect on them then his presence does. I was stunned and saddened by that comment and have been thinking about it ever since. What I came to realize is that his presence has an incredibly positive effect on them, one that we probably won't fully realize until they are husbands and raising children themselves. But his absence would have an incredibly negative effect on them, and I would see that immediately.
My husband is teaching my boys how to be men, and I can't do that. I can try, and do try, every day. I make them open doors, let me go first, and help with normal housework. They can cook, do laundry and clean a bathroom. I refuse to raise boys that sit on the couch and expect to be waited on. But for all my talk, it is my husband that they are watching and whose behavior they are copying, trying to figure out how to be a man. And here is what they see, when he thinks they aren't paying attention:
They see someone who makes sure they are fed every evening. We eat together as a family at least 5 times a week, and it is because of him. If it was up to me, dinner would be burnt or a bowl of cereal. I am not particularly proud of that. I am just not as hungry as they are and too easily distracted in my home office to pull off a good meal more than a few times a month, as much as I love to do it.
My boys see a man who is making a concerted effort to take good care of himself and be around for the long haul. They exercise regularly as a result. They eat good healthy food, drink water daily and have habits at a young age that I never had. But, they also appreciate a run to Hill Top Creamery and a great steak. He has taught them that balance.
My husband has a beautiful garden that has greatly benefited from our built in landscaping crew. My sons have seen the benefit of daily tending to something that you can be proud of. They have enjoyed and been amazed with the quality of vegetables that he has grown in our own backyard. They have developed definite opinions regarding the way their lawn should be cut and get as antsy as I do when it isn't done in a timely fashion by whoever's turn it is.
My boys can jump a dead car, and have installed a dishwasher and a toilet this year. I, of course, would call someone and pay them to do it. My husband gets on You Tube and figures out how to do it himself. Then he gets his boys to help him. As silly as it sounds, these are skills that are going to make some women very happy some day.
Most importantly, my boys are learning how to treat other people. I am constantly amazed at the glimpses of him that I see in all of them when they are speaking to others. They are learning how to treat women based on the way they see me treated. One of my favorite quotes is "The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother." He has truly given them that gift. In addition, they watch him with his own mother, and I am confident I will be well cared for when I need it. That is another gift he has given me.
They see a man who is here, every day. This is an accomplishment in an era when marriages end all the time. It wasn't always this way. For the first 15 years of our marriage, I was a single parent of 4 boys under 10. He traveled constantly and at times, I resented it. But now, I am so grateful. I was there at a time when I really needed to be. Now with the advent of the home office, he is here when it is most important for him to be. When he has to occasionally travel, I am amazed by my incompetence. I am all out of sorts without him around. How did I take care of 4 little boys all by myself? And from the minute my boys wake, they are asking "Where's Dad?" If he isn't sitting in his office when they come bounding down the stairs, they notice. They are immediately aware of his absence and I know they miss him, as I hear that question over and over again, all day. All that said, I think there is a piece of them that is secretly excited when they realize he is traveling. Because they know that odds are, we are ordering out that night!