A little over seven years ago, the day I found out I was pregnant with Nico, Sam was not entirely sure he was ready to be a father. I told him I was taking a test and to let me know when it had been three minutes, but less than thirty seconds later I was calling down the hall, "Um, Sam, I think we're about to become parents!"
"No," he shouted back, "It hasn't been three minutes yet!"
Be that as it may, I assured him, the stick had spoken. At that moment he got up from the couch, walked into the kitchen and started furiously cleaning everything in sight. It was, to my knowledge, the first time he had ever willingly engaged in any form of cleaning in his life.
These days he can clean puke out of almost any surface while holding one child and keeping a pair of dogs at bay.
When Nico was born, Sam had never changed a diaper. He changed his first diaper in the hospital, with my mother talking him through it, and for the past 6 plus years, not a day has gone by without him changing at least one.
When we got married, Sam's idea of cooking was opening a frozen pizza and managing to pull it out of the oven before it burned. I once asked him to whip up some mac and cheese from a box, and he called me to ask me which cup to use. I said, "What do you mean. What do you need a cup for?" And he answered, "It says to add a quarter cup of milk, but that seems very inaccurate. Our cups are all different sizes."
These days he can cook anything, and heaven forbid his frugal wife should ask him to forgo the parsley or the basil in a recipe. It would ruin the dish altogether, he assures me as he's running out the door to pick a last minute cooking "necessity."
There's more, I mean so very much more that I could say about this man, but the overall idea is that he somehow managed to pick up all the really great, inherent strength of being a man and a father without hanging on to all of the machismo crap that society tells people makes a "real" man. He is not afraid to cook or clean toilets, yet he knows more than anyone I have ever met about military history and world politics. He teaches the boys to be honest and brave, to view every day as an adventure and treat everyone they meet with respect and kindness.
I am reminded so often that it takes much more strength to be a man like my husband, who defies convention and eschews traditional gender roles, than to be someone who watches his football because all his friends watch football. You have to be a real man to strap a baby on your chest, to cook couscous for your family, or try to find a changing station in a men's restrom. For me, the best part about Father's Day is knowing that my boys have a real man for their father, someone who will teach them to be people of character, to work hard, to say what they mean and mean what they say. And of course, someone who will teach them not to take themselves too seriously because pursuing the charade of status can never compare with seeing someone as they truly are.