“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Friday, January 11, 2013

Choosing Daddy

With Joey as Star Student this week, a few complications arose to slightly shift the fam dynam. (Family dynamic--not yet sure if I like my abbreviation.) As I mentioned before, there was the whole question of "Who do you most want to be like when you grow up?" which caused Joey a bit of moral struggle: does he choose his father, which makes the most sense, or does he choose me, to whom he is most loyal? In the end, as I shared in another post, I had to let him know the truth: I know his life's aspirations are not to be a stay-at-home mom and love the color purple (which, as it turns out, is all he knows about me).

Today, the last day of the days, Joey was to invite his parents in and have one of them read the class a story. Now, that does come across a bit like a setup, where the child will be forced to choose. Really, I think the child is just meant to invite in the parent who will read, but it once again came down to the issue of hurt feelings for our sensitive little dude. But he made no bones about one thing: Daddy would read.

Every single night at bedtime in our house, children are cuddled close and read a story. I have been reading to them both since infancy, or if you count it, in utero. As time has passed and Noah has grown, it had become a divided event. I go with Joey and we read whatever chapter of whatever novel he's on, and my husband reads to Noah. Noah is very insistent that his dad read to him, and Joey prefers me at bedtime. I'm not sure how their preferences came to be so firm-lined, but it probably has something to do with routine and the way things have always worked out.

But this time, Joey was clear. Daddy would read to the class.

I don't want to say my feelings were hurt, because they weren't. I might have had an inkling that the choice was the wrong one, since after all, I'm the English teacher, the writer, the reader...I'm totally the best choice, right? But I completely understood that it would special for Joey to have this moment with his father. I also have a firm belief that fathers should read to their sons, should be seen reading by their sons, and should just all-around be actively involved in the readers their children grow to be. So I didn't argue with Joey's choice and I won't say my feelings were hurt.

Joey chose Zathura, a beautifully written and illustrated Chris Van Allsburg book I bought for teaching years ago (see? my book!). Joey loves this story, but because of its length his dad hesitated. "Won't that take up a lot of time, Joey?" my husband asked. Joey shrugged. "I can pick anything I want!" he declared. "And I want this."

And so it was.

We arrived at his classroom, "Right on time!" or so the teacher said, and the presentation area was made to accommodate us. The children were seated angelically on the floor (because they really are a nice class) before the teacher's rocking chair, a student chair, and a blank cushioned office chair.

"Who gets the rocker, Joey?" asked Joey's teacher.

"My DAD," said Joey, gesturing to the wooden chair with flourish. And just the way his voice carried the word--DAD--I felt his pride and thrill well up inside my own heart. Mommy comes to class often enough. But this was DAD. Dad left work. Dad, his baseball coach. Dad, his at-home science teacher (yes, they blow things up often). Dad, his protector. Dad...his most cherished friend.

"Really?" asked the teacher. "You're going to give this dinky old chair to your mom?"

I laughed like a good sport, knowing I could get emotional at any second because this whole event is a big deal to me even though it's fairly run-of-the-mill for everyone else involved (I mentioned in the previously mentioned previous post that every kid gets his shot at Star Student--it's not like it's earned). Any moment where I'm meant to reflect on how much I love either of my children causes me to well up and have heart palpitations; it's a combination of fierce motherly protectiveness and crazy, over-the-moon love. So I laughed at the teacher, at Joey, at the moment, and sat in the dinky old chair while my husband sat on Joey's other side in the rocking chair.

The children leaned forward eagerly as he held up Joey's chosen book. "Have you kids ever heard of the story Zathura?" he asked them.

Some said yes, some shrugged. It was clear they wanted him to just begin. And begin he did.

With wide eyes and a voice suddenly filled with magic, my husband brought the pages of the book alive for everyone present. Not a practiced teacher, he didn't show them the pictures until he was finished reading each page. (Reading upside down so kids can see the pictures the whole time is a difficult thing to learn.) Once, he even forgot to show the picture at all. It didn't matter--his reading was so captivating the kids barely noticed. With each page I watched their rapt faces change from surprise to awe to wonder--they loved it.

And I loved watching my husband.

At some point, Joey rose from his chair and tucked his arm around his dad's. He leaned on Big Joe's shoulder, adding appropriate comments that helped his father explain the more science-fictiony parts of the story.

For me, being pregnant and having a baby was more than emotional. It forged something inside me that made me possessive and desperate to earn the love my children gave so freely. It sounds like a contradiction, and it is...almost. But I never ever thought I'd feel so good watching Joey get so much from his father's presence, his father's love, or his father's, well, magic. I'm so proud to be married to a man who has all of those things, and has already begun to imprint them on our children.

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