Fellow gentlemen, I would like to begin with an apology. Though I am about to make your wives very happy, I might have just sold out my fellow men in search of the truth. I hope you will be able to forgive me for what I am about to say, because, I will assure you, if you take my advice to heart, it will strengthen both your relationship with your kids and your wife. With that said, I would like to tell you why my wife is the Don Mattingly of parenting and I am the Steve Sax.
Apology number two: I am a Yankees fan. I grew up five minutes from the Bronx. Don Mattingly is my childhood hero (I got giddy when I attended a wedding in Evansville, IN, his hometown) so for the purpose of this story, he will represent the pinnacle of all that is good. Ok, not just for this story… but I digress… Steve Sax, on the other hand, was a great player who, once traded to New York, played far below his abilities, many believe due to the pressure of such a big market. It has happened over and over again (Chuck Knoblauch, Randy Johnson, the list goes on…) I call this phenomenon “Steve Sax Disease” and when it comes to parenting, I seem to have caught it.
My wife is an amazing mother of four. We have a twelve year old girl and BGG Triplets that are thirteen months old today. Often I look upon her in awe and wonder: How is she so good with them? Where is this patience coming from? Is there really a natural, maternal connection between baby and mother that makes it so much easier for her? My wife dropped the babies off with me for two hours the other day, and I had my eldest and my boss there to help watch them and I was STILL falling apart. TWO HOURS!! How does she make it through the day? I thought commission sales was hard. It’s a walk in the park compared to parenting…
Babies are like wild animals, they can sense fear and discomfort. And the more uncomfortable you are, the worse it gets. Then the pressure builds, which only makes you more uncomfortable. Heck just typing this makes me uncomfortable.
So I got to thinking, what does my wife do that I don’t? She rocks them. I rock them. She sings them songs. I sing them songs. She dances and makes silly faces. I dance and make silly faces. But no matter what I do, or how hard I try, I am unable to keep order while she is able to do so. And it all came down to one thing: My wife spends the entire day with them and I go off to work. Cue the epiphany: I always thought that this made her a more effective parent because the babies were more comfortable with her, but, in reality, it is because SHE is more comfortable with THEM.
In order to make sense of this, as a guy, I will use another sports analogy. Jameer Nelson, current Orlando Magic point guard, led St. Joseph’s to a number one seed in the 2004 NCAA Tournament. ESPN did a piece on him at the time and talked about how the game slowed down for Nelson.; that extra time to think allowed Nelson to analyze the floor and adjust without panicking, thus removing the pressure. How did Nelson achieve this level of zen? Practice. Nelson commented that he had been in similar situations so many times, things became automatic. Through practice, he had removed the need to think about what was routine (things as simple as dribbling, and as complex as the play) and focus his attention on the variables.
Just like anything else in this world, practice makes perfect. Whether it is basketball, the aforementioned commission sales, or parenting, the more you practice, the more comfortable you become. Fathers tend to be a bit out of practice when it comes to taking care of babies. There is a long standing stereotype that it is the woman’s responsibility to take care of the babies and honestly, there is probably a reason why people think that. Often times, men, we are the bread winners, and the lawn mowers, and the drain uncloggers, and, believe me, I know how little time there can be in the day when all that is done. But taking that extra time, whether it is in the middle of the day or the middle of the night, to be the one to change the diaper or feed the bottle will help you get more accustomed to the role. It allows the parenting to become automatic and “slows the game down.”
So in conclusion, guys, chip away at all the pressure by taking care of things, one by one. Eventually, though you may never reach a Mattingly like level of parenting, you will certainly feel greater joy with your skills. And that better relationship with your wife I was talking about at the top that you have skimmed through the article to learn about? Once the pressure of the full workload is off of her and you chip in, your wife will be a much happier woman. Now go back a read the article to find out how to do that.
Apology number three goes to Steve Sax. You were a great player and a great guy and just being a Yankee is good enough for me. Plus, you were GREAT on that episode of the Simpsons.