It’s the season again—my children, ages 9 and 11—are in a hundred thousand different activities between them. That’s my own fault—I accept full responsibility for the daily scheduling insanity that is my Google calendar. But what I don’t get—maybe someone out there can shed some light for me—is why, why when I ask my children’s teachers, coaches, and activity leaders to kindly (I always use the word “kindly” in my request) email both my husband and me with their frequent updates, these seemingly competent people seem unable (I won’t go so far as to call it unwilling) to add a father’s email to their distribution list?
I’m the kind of parent who wants to play with you—we’re trying to do the right thing in our home. I will sign up for snack and remember to bring it, and with god as my witness, it will be nut-free. I will make sure my daughter brings in a recyclable container to make a new home for an insect without ever questioning whether it is better for the insect to remain outdoors. I will bring my son to his special needs soccer practice an hour early for group photos, to run around the field with the Philly fanatic, to partake of a special snack from our local food co-op—whatever damn thing you want the kid to do, he shall arrive on time for it and do that thing!
But I can’t manage to make the magic happen on my own—I need that guy, my husband Fred, who is my partner in co-parenting our kids, to get the reminder, too. We work best when our aging brains can act as wonder-twins and remember that this is the night that the piano teacher’s benefit is happening and all of the students are strongly encouraged to attend.
That’s right—that guy, the one with the gray beard, wearing the old Eagles t-shirt and ripped jeans. He manages a lot of what’s happening with the kids. I know, he may not be engaging with you while the girls are dancing the same hip-hop routine for the 200th time—that’s just because he’s got his earbuds in and is listening to a podcast about the making of “Breaking Bad.” But I swear, he is not only a great co-parent—he is a proud feminist and he wants to read your emails without me always forwarding them to him, dammit!
Like many other Gen-X couples, we are forging new territory in our roles within our marriage and in our parenting. We both work full-time and in between work responsibilities, we are completely devoted to our children, our yellow lab, our cranky old cat who refuses to die, and our home. We even manage to volunteer our time to support all of the wonderful school and extra-curricular activities that are nurturing our children’s growth.
I would get it if the teachers, etc., were from an older generation and had trouble understanding the way we Kaplan-Mayers roll (yes, we decided together to each hyphenate our last names, despite outpourings of painfully crafted letters from relatives of said older generations warning us of the doom to come). It took some time, for example, for my parents to understand the way that Fred and I each participate in household chores. My mom stopped working outside of the home when my older sister was born in 1969 and the house and children were her domain, while my dad worked very hard as the sole breadwinner.
When we were first married, my parents were visiting one night when Fred, after coming home from work, got started on the laundry that had piled up in our hamper. I was sitting with my folks in our living room when Fred rather quickly carried two full bags of laundry to our basement washer/dryer set. He hung out in our downstairs office (I’m sure that had nothing to do with the fact that my parents were upstairs in the living room) and emerged a couple of hours later with not only dry, but color-sorted and neatly folded laundry. My parents had never seen anything like it. “Steve!” my mother exclaimed. “Did you see how fast Fred folded the laundry?” Equally bewildered, yet delighted, my father called out, “Amazing!” and they both gave me a certain look, implying that I was indeed the lucky girl who had found Prince Charming and was living happily ever after, with all of my delicates washed nicely in cold.
Look, I won’t get started on my son’s former school nurse who would call me first whenever my son would (frequently) get an ear infection even though I had taken time to write on his form that my husband’s office was only a 6-minute drive while mine was a 30-minute drive from school and if they wanted to evacuate my dear boy more effectively when the screaming that comes with ear pain ensued, they should always try dad’s cell first—yet, she just didn’t seem to believe that it was permissible to call my husband first, even with my written permission.
So the rest of you—just put Fred on your email list already. When you ask me to squeeze an extra child into my Nissan Sentra as we forge into the wilderness of the local nature center to look yet again for tadpoles, I will be less cranky. Or maybe Fred will respond to your email blast first and volunteer to go on that trip, instead. He’s all sugar and spice, I promise.