Last weekend we found ourselves on an afternoon sitting in two chairs in our backyard, listening to country music while our daughter napped peacefully inside. Just a couple of people in love with each other and the moment. It shocks and saddens me to say it, but this was the first time the two of us have relaxed at the same time, alone, and not in bed, since I was pregnant with her two years ago. Where are the days going? What happened to our moments? In all the meal planning and the nit-picking, laundry-folding, and dishwashing, it’s easy to fall into a pattern in which we are two parts of a machine that is our life. Moving, doing, not stopping much, it seems.
But I realized as we sat there quietly enjoying each other, that that isn’t really true. Yes, we are always out in the world earning money to support ourselves or home scurrying about to make our surroundings nice. But we are not just that. I want to take a moment, on Father’s Day, to tell you that I am still in love with you. The real you. And yes, a lot of that has to do with what an amazing father you are. But becoming a dad only brought you to the next level of who you already were going to be. It’s the you-you, under all of that, that I loved before and still do, that I forget to think about sometimes. Or at least, I forget to tell you.
So I wanted to take a moment to tell you that I appreciate you. I appreciate that you work your a*s off to provide for our daughter and myself and you don’t resent my smaller income. That you’ve taught yourself how to build and fix things after finally caving and leaving the big city for the suburban life I’ve always dreamed of. I am so grateful that you’ve grown to respect my severe insomnia and swiftly took over the morning shift so I can sleep in a little after a long night spinning with my thoughts. The cup of coffee you often bring me in bed is the most romantic thing you’ve ever done, a necessity of my life as a mom. And this is true even though before I was a mom you did really romantic things, like sweeping me off to Paris for a weekend because I’d never been.
There will be no trips to Paris in our near future, and certainly nothing spontaneous. But as you stand there in the kitchen washing the dishes that I simply can’t muster the energy to do myself, I watch and listen. I enjoy the swish of the suds on the plates we picked together and added to a wedding registry before we were weighed down by parenthood. I see the back of your neck that I so often forget to grace with a kiss like back in the day when we were young and sexy and worry-free. But I still see it, and I remember.
I remember you at my front doorstep at that ridiculously cramped studio apartment I called home when we met. Standing there in Ray-Bans with a fresh tan and probably a spritz too many of the pricy cologne that was the first gift I ever bought you. I remember drinking champagne at an elegant rooftop bar and wandering the streets of Manhattan, dizzy in love and arm-in-arm, 24 and free. I remember how solid, uncomplicated, and kind you felt, how safe. And you know what, honey? That hasn’t changed. It’s not only because you lucked out with seriously good genes and genuinely look 10 years younger than you are. It’s not because my vision has weakened and I really need to get glasses but I keep putting it off, either. I still see you because you are still you, budgets, bickering, and all.
I want you to know that the moment I first saw you holding our newborn, that made you look infinitely sexier than all the Ray-Bans, fresh tans, and champagne ever could. That when you relinquish your second pillow so I may have a third when my back is aching from carrying at 28-pound toddler around all day, the romance is realer than European adventures. I want you to know that making a baby with you, and watching you love her the way that you do, has changed everything and nothing at the exact same time.
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes you make me absolutely crazy. When you swoop in and cringe over the mess we are making while having fun, or you jump down my throat about the cost of organic avocados, I feel tempted, momentarily, to tell you where you can shove the mess. Or the avocados. When you fell asleep while I was in labor, the mental daggers I threw your way were lodged so deep, it took nearly a year for me to watch them truly fade away. Then there was the first six months of exclusive breastfeeding when I never got a break from life. I definitely wanted to kill you more than once, if we’re being honest.
But honey, we have a good life. And no, it isn’t just because of our daughter, as amazing as she is in every way. Ever since we became parents, we’ve been tired, broke, and each about ten pounds heavier than we’d like to be. And I am okay with all of that. Because even when things get hard — and they do for us like they do for everyone — the bottom never comes out. The history never fades away. I don’t even remember the last time either one of us had the opportunity to get a tan. And the champagne? We’ve had a bottle sitting in the fridge for nearly two years now that we keep forgetting (or, when we do remember, we’re too tired to drink it). But thanks to you, my life is good. Thanks to the way I can still make you laugh, I feel happy. Thanks to the moments you tell me I’m pretty when I have dirty hair and no makeup on, I feel beautiful. Thanks to our love, our daughter has a good start.
I may not always tell you, but I love you more now that you’re a father. For the joy on your face when you go to fetch her from her crib in the morning. For the readiness you show to make us dinner when I’m spent and can’t fathom going near the kitchen. For the fun we make inside of our new life, even if it’s just a drive to the mall for window-shopping. Or every once in a while, sitting in a couple of chairs listening to country music. So maybe it really is you-you that still makes my heart skip a beat when I stop to actually look up. But I’d take Dad-you over champagne and Paris every day for the rest of my life. I might not say it every day, but I’d choose it nonetheless.
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