It wasn’t always quite like this. I used to have ideas about who was president and who was vice-president of this household, and I didn’t see much practicality to a true partnership. I was young, and I’d been taught that there was only one way for marriage to “work.” But words have different meanings as we age and as we open our hearts to new ways. Now you are my partner—a word not used often enough for actual marriage anymore, but the word more of us should be using. We are a team. It’s not 50/50. It’s not each getting an equal vote. It’s something much more mystical and sacred and difficult to define or quantify—like a lot of God’s best gifts.
We each give. We each lead. We each sacrifice. We do these things for the team: la Familia. And we’re not perfect at this, but we’re getting better at it with every storm, with every difficult season. We carry each other. We push each other. We walk side by side and, when necessary, one of us will lead the way. For the team.
We are not who we used to be.
When I was mired in depression and struggling to nurture a baby and a toddler you learned to cook so that we could all survive, but like everything you do you didn’t just follow the instructions on a box. You poured yourself into it. You studied methods and perfected gourmet meals. You have cooked us complete Greek dinners. You have mastered the art of a stuffed mushroom. And you have wrapped bacon around a lot of things (because you do for family). When you were working hard at camp, I mowed the lawn. I learned to take apart the kitchen sink to clear nasty clogs. (Yes, the Internet has helped us be better partners. Thank you, YouTube.)
When our children were small I nursed them and cradled them in the wee hours. You were a good dad, but (I had read all the books) so often you followed my lead, even when I didn’t know the way. Now that they are a teenager and a preteen it is you who have read all the books. I am a good mom, but I often follow your lead, and you usually know the way. You take them on lunch dates. You teach them to paint. You play the long board games. You stand in the backyard perfecting passes and sets and bumps and other things to do with sports equipment I don’t touch.
We take turns.
Robert Fulghum famously wrote that everything he needed to know about life he learned in kindergarten. I think more people should be saying that of marriage. Our kindergarten teachers tried to teach us the things we are still learning again and again as we travel the road together:
Here’s to my partner. Here’s to our team. Here’s to our kindergarten teachers.
Thank you for being a beautiful, flawed, ever-growing, every-learning, ever-amazing father.