"Does she do this stuff with you?" my husband asked me, Bridget sprawled out, snuggling with him on his chest as he laid on the floor.
"Nope." I said.
He seemed surprised. He always does when the kids prefer him over me. Bridget calls for him at night and looks for him in the morning when he's gone for work.
She fell the other day and he automatically brought her to me. She clung tightly to him.
I've started putting my hand up to stop him because I know. "She doesn't need me to comfort her," I told him. "She's got you!"
He smiled as she rested her head on his shoulder.
Whatever differences my husband and I have between us, the one constant has always been his love for his kids and his active involvement with them, which has grown over the years, mostly because I have slowly and humbly returned the reins I stripped from him after our first was born.
I was slightly more prepared with basic caretaking skills thanks to years of babysitting small children, but our love for our babies was the same.
Contrary to what I've read and heard, I wasn't born with the ability to change diapers and dress babies. The tits and vagina only ensured that if given the chance, I'd be able shoot out a baby and nurse it. Basic biological functions.
But all the other stuff was learned, by trial, lots of error, and more tears than I care to remember because I was with them more than he was. The nature of his job versus mine, as much as he'd rush home when he could to see her, but also my insistence that I somehow knew better. How to bathe and feed, bounce and comfort.
And so he became the dad you see holding a baby like you've just handed him a ticking time bomb.
"She doesn't like me" he'd say about Quinlan. Really, she didn't know him.
Partially his fault. Partially mine.
It was never that he was incapable or unwilling, but rather that I often deemed him as such, for whatever reason. My own controlling personality, my anxiety, my fear.
The only way I could ever truly let go was when I would physically leave to return to happy children, tired dad, and a ridiculously clean carpet.
But I know I'm on the only mom who feels this way. It's become this sort of self-fulfilling prophecy for many dads in this country: If I think I'm going to be a bumbling idiot with my kids then I will be one.
Oh those silly dads losing their kids in the park or feeding them cake for breakfast!
And worse, it's become acceptable, cool even, to be the goofy, helpless dad who'd sooner drink beers with his buddies than spend time playing with his kids, doing everything they can to escape those dreaded parenting duties.
The truth is, gender doesn't matter. This isn't an issue of dicks versus vaginas. We're both completely helpless with a newborn in our hands.
But if you aren't around your kids enough then you'll never learn how to take care of them. If you don't have a chance to get your hands covered in poop, then you won't know how to clean it up. That's how I figured it out, and how everyone else does too, through in-the-trenches experiences that scare us shitless and teach us better than any silly parenting book.
If we continue to treat our spouses and partners like bumbling idiots around the kids then they will become that.
Men have as much possibility to be amazing parents as we moms do. Maybe even better.
As much as we want the image of mothers to be changed, let's do the same for the dads too.
They deserve it. And so do our kids.