The Biggest Birthday Gift...Definitely Not the Best

A few weekends ago at the gym, Keith could not persuade me to work out with weights because 1) I wanted to finish re-reading a book while getting some mileage on the treadmill and 2) I just don’t want to work that hard. Ever. So, that is where my mind has been recently: NOT the treadmill, but on what has become one of my favorite parenting books, The Connected Child, authors Purvis, Cross and Sunshine. I have marked nearly every sentence as being of vital importance. Yes, I highlight while on the treadmill. I am a multi-tasker by nature, and, with my growing brood, efficiency of time is a must. Oh, it looks as if I were intoxicated while reading…and I have to pause the treadmill so often to pick up the dropped utensil that the experience doesn’t even count as cardiovascular exercise. Anyway, I bring it up because the book wraps up by talking about being emotionally present. The example given shows how a spouse can be emotionally present, or absent…and how we can be fully present for our children as well.

If a person is emotionally present, he: isn’t tangled up in his own needs, responds fully to you in your moment of tragedy or despair (which is the way I feel at 5:30 on most days…and some day’s I’ve reached that point by 7:02 A.M.), is a safe audience and an eager cheerleader for you, truly hears your concerns, encourages you to be the best you can be.

I list these for two reasons: 1)We all need reminders of how to be fully present to our kids and spouses. 2) I’ve been told this blog is too harsh on my husband at times. What! Okay…maybe. When I read the example of the emotionally present spouse and the list above, I immediately thought of Keith. Not waving my finger in the air in a “he should be this for me” way, but with a relaxing sigh in a “I am grateful and honored to have a husband who is this for me” way.

But before I fully redeem Keith, let me make sure that boy is good and run over.

Hmmm, I was going to list the many horrendous faults of my beloved, but I can’t think of any (well, not many) that I would change. So, maybe he leaves his boxers in the exact spot where he undressed, but seeing them reminds me to be less neurotic about the neatness and order of this house. Instead of being angry or jealous that he gets to sit with the kids in the short time between lunch and nap, I should join him. Forget the kitchen! God fearfully and wonderfully made Keith just the way he is. And, all of those tiny flaws that my flesh loves to point out are actually the reasons I fell in love with him. Well, plus the fact that he was the most godly man I knew. Ahhh. I’m so sweet, right? I know.

Okay, I have to tell one not-so-tiny and very horrible thing. And, although it occurred 10 years ago, I think of it every year on my birthday. With the celebration of that event coming to a close, indulge me for a moment. Six months into our marriage, Keith apparently had forgotten everything he learned about me during our 4-and-a-half year courtship. I arrived home one evening to find our small table topped with my birthday gifts and my least favorite cake, a store-bought birthday cake. Inside his careful and creative wrapping of Walmart bags were 3 items from my week’s grocery list: 2 oven mitts and rubber gloves for the kitchen. Oh, that’s not all he gave me that year. He did make me save the biggest for last, which was concealed by a giant black trash bag. Underneath? A new mesh laundry basket, which was another item on my grocery list. Wait! My gift was inside the laundry basket. Ta da!!! He had picked up all of his dirty clothes for me. Are those great presents or what? Worse? He actually thought they would be. And not just merely acceptable, but he was beaming with pride as he watched me open them.

I am totally serious. Keith gave me a laundry basket full of his dirty clothes for my first birthday after we were married. Whatever you are thinking, multiply it by about a thousand.

If you read my birthday post, you know he did a better job this year. But I may forever jump at the chance to tell that story.

In addition to checking off the list of the fully present spouse description, he also does my dishes. All of them. I wake up each morning to a kitchen that is ready for my tornado-like food preparation amidst the 3 life-draining leaches who sometimes will not give me an inch to breath and other times require a harness just to stay within my vicinity.

Let me brag for a moment if I may. He is well qualified in his career field and could have a great job (um, cha ching) in the big city, but he chooses to stay at good ole Yamaha just 3 miles down the road from our house. It may as well be at our back door. With a non-existent commute, most days we get to see him before work, during lunch, and no later than 5:30. With the exception of the last few weeks during which he took care of 2 turtles for his boss who was in Japan. Turtles who nearly ate us out of house and home by the way. I did get to see him at lunch but only as he ran through the kitchen stealing produce not only from the frig but from my plate as well. Some of you may think I’m crazy for wanting him here so much. Why not scoot him out earlier so we can party?

Well, the show at our house is more like a circus in training. We are far from being ready for public viewing. While I, the ringmaster, know what I’m doing, I need some backup from the person with more God-given authority. Although I read Water for Elephants, I'm not sure if that would be the general manager or the owner. Either way, Keith is that guy. Besides the fact that the voice of Daddy weighs far heavier than the voice of Mommy, he demands that they respect me…or at least act as if they do. Plus, instead of just repeating whatever request they are ignoring from me, he’ll say something like, “Okay, kids, Mommy just said to _____, so you need to ______ or receive the consequence.”

The first two weekends we were home, he took all 3 kids to the park alone so that I could rest and get groceries in peace.

If we have to take separate vehicles anywhere, he always offers to take the kids with him, giving me a rare moment of driving solo. On the boys' first trip to Krispy Kreme for instance, I set my cruise control on the minimum posted interstate speed, taking full advantage of my chance to act as the DJ in my own vehicle.

Even though he is clobbered by 3 tiny bodies who are screaming excitedly about their day, doing anything to get his attention, he repeatedly shakes them off one after the other until he reaches me. Why? "Mommy always gets the first hug," he tells them. Um, and kiss. Usually several of them...while we ignore their attempts to climb up our legs. Not gross. Just the way it should be.

Okay, I could go on, but you get the picture. I mean, all the stuff I have said previously about him is absolutely true…like his leaving me for worse than dead in the airport. But in the end, WHO HE IS far outweighs any goofy or even hurtful mistakes.

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