Minnesota Mamaleh: About a Mensch
The kids pile onto our bed one by one as they wake up in the morning. The elbows fly, the feet kick. It’s cozy and my heart is full. I relish in the warmth and the fun. The coziness and the giggles. It’s all truly amazing. Until I get whapped in the tummy, that is. Or the face. And then I mostly just think that we so should have gotten a king-sized bed. But that’s another story, for another time.
There are three main thoughts that seep into my brain, my heart, during times like these. The first is how meant-to-be our life is. The second is what an amazing fit we are. And last, thank goodness that we’re both so-very into our kids.
Sometimes having children pulls couples apart. Roles and expectations shift and change. Don’t get me wrong, ours did too. But we morphed and transformed in ways that still fit. And do I dare say, work even better than before. We fell in love all over again. As parents.
Seeing Jason as a father warms my heart. Every. Single. Day. There are definitely times that we snap at each other, get in each other’s way. Both so-very-sure that we know what’s right, what’s best for our family. For our kids. (I love how that sounds.) But I adore that we’re both invested enough to even get snippy about things like outfits, activities and birthday parties. And don’t even get me started on projects. Or presents.
We each have our own strengths with the kids, for sure. What I can handle (messy projects, for example) just give him the heebie-jeebies. And the things that three kids later he does on auto-pilot (like taking care of someone in the midst of the stomach-sicks), I just can’t (really, truly can’t) do. He tickles like no other. Is home for dinner whenever possible. And kisses our kids goodnight many, many more nights than not. The kids can rely on that. Rely on him. And so can I.
I’m tear-jerkingly happy that Brody has such an amazing role model for being a solid, honorable person and an involved father. I’m also over-the-top thrilled that my girls are seeing and learning the very same about how our family’s version of a “good man” treats his work, his life, his children and his wife.
We Jews have many, many words, phrases, descriptors that we use. In English. In Hebrew. In Yiddish. In Hebrish. But bar none, one of my absolute faves is mensch. Have you ever heard that word? Used it? Been called it? It’s the highest-of-highest of Jewish compliments. And I’ve heard it a million and one times in reference to Jason. A decent, upright, honorable person. An upstanding person who takes responsibility for his actions. A particularly good person. A stand-up guy. A person with the qualities one would hope for in a dear friend or trusted colleague. Indeed.
Not only is it just plain-old hard to be a mensch sometimes, it’s nearly of a-rock-and-a-hard place quality as a dad. Provide much, discipline well, be available, open, around, strong, sensitive. In our family, Jason has that Second Shift that we all learned about in college. I’m not exactly sure when he’s not “on.” The bus ride to and from work, maybe? Expectations are high, demands are deep and all are hard to reach.
And that’s here in the States where, at least in theory, we value fatherhood. We compliment involved dads and show our appreciation with words, actions and holidays like Father’s Day. In Israel there’s not a Father’s Day, there never has been. One of my Israeli Mama friends told me that, “there’s definitely no celebration of fatherhood there.” And to be perfectly honest with you, that made me sad.
I definitely think that everybody should be treated exceptionally well every single day. Of course I do. But a day set aside to be all about someone or something is extra…something. Kind? Respectful? Special? Thankful? It’s a reflection of the overall affection felt, the total package if you will.
As I heard back from each Israeli Mama that I reached out to, the same themes emerged over and over again. “They’ve never even heard of it here.” “What used to be Mother’s Day is now “Family Day” – one size fits all – but really preschoolers and Kindergartners are the only ones who celebrate it. It’ not a big commercial holiday.”
Sad, sad and more sad. Not the commercial part per se, but the missing set aside, extra special reverence. I wonder what Israelis think about our holidays like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, even Valentine’s Day for that matter. Too individualistic? Too wasteful of time, money, energy?
I can see that. I really can. I don’t agree with it. At all. But I can see it. I wonder about the message that lack sends about men, their role, their expectations, their value. As dads. I don’t have any answers, but I do wonder about it.
In our house Daddy-time is family time in its purest form. It’s when we’re complete, whole, content. We all look forward to it and carve it out because it’s special, he’s special. The transition-back-in can be…awkward. Jason needs to adjust to having us all within his personal space. Our noise, our hugs, our literally tripping all over each other. It’s wonderful, for sure, but it (we, I guess) can be overwhelming. For the kids and for me, it’s a shift as well, to having a second go-to-adult in charge. But you know what? It’s so very worth the stumbles and grumbles that the transition inherently requires. He completes us. I say this out loud in front of the kids. I live it, breathe it, act it. And so it just is what it is. Daddy rocks.
Jason knows just the right times to hug, tease, tickle and um- slide. And the reverence that my kids feel for him? When 6:00 rolls around and they wait at the window, anxious for him to get home from work. When they run and greet him with big squeezes. When everybody wants to sit next to him at dinner. Or pile on top of him for books. Or battle it out with him at wii bowling. That’s exactly how it was on Father’s Day. And it’ll be exactly the same tonight. We can all count on that, count on him.
So, Happy Father’s Day, Babe. We all love you, hope that you’re not too sore from the slip ‘n slide and that you’re ready to try it again next weekend. Because you are truly our mensch.