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A Little Girl and a Large Cup of Cocoa

I was resentful. I was desperate. So I did the most rational thing: l urged my husband to somehow be less awesome.


y husband is the cool parent and I am jealous.

I’m cool too, you know. I leave love notes in our kids’ backpacks and I buy the brand potato chip they like; Lays, if you must know. I make potatoes lump-free and bake their favorite chocolate cake. I remember birthdays, plan elaborate parties, I buy games and I buy toys. And what do I get for all that? A mumbled thank you, and if I’m lucky, a peck on my cheek.

But my husband? He doesn’t buy anything. He doesn’t do anything. He just bounces in at six p.m. and immediately the kids are all over him. Even the baby who can’t rub her pudgy nose yet, waves and kicks her chubby feet.

Now don’t get me wrong, having alone time at six p.m. is awesome. But still, I wish my kids would look at me the same way. Or at the very least, on the rare occasion Daddy babysits they would yell “Mommyyyyy!” when I come home, like they do “Daadddyyy!!!!”

But they don’t, and I put up with it, because, well, what am I supposed to do? Bribe them with a pajama-clad, school-free month?

One day though, this absolute deify became too much. The kids suggested I stay behind with the baby while they go out for ice cream, and that was it. I had had enough. Out came the hip chevron journal and pen. Collecting data, that was the game plan.

Buying five doughnuts when we needed three? Gotcha! Bathing the kids with just soap? Duly noted. Wait, just soap? Ditch the shampoo? Really??

Over the next few days, I observed, wrote, and sighed. Here’s what I learned: He gives piggy back rides my petite body got charley horse watching; he bounces them up and down with an exuberance I would have to be seriously coffee-drugged to simulate; he has rights to incredible climbing territory; he needs to go on a diet. He is big and joyful and loud. Sparkly Daddy, that’s what he is.

What made it even worse? He wasn’t all that perfect. I saw him looking through his phone several times while he was supposed to be listening to my son. Sure, my son can put a filibuster to shame, but I hide my phone from myself to keep me from peeking and my husband is the one who gets to hear about his friend’s new diet?

Okay, I’ll pass on this one, but the gall of my son, talking to a Daddy who wasn’t even listening about how stupid a diet is because soon enough we won’t even eat at all ‘cause there will be an i-wire down our throat that will take care of all that calories and whatnot.

I was resentful. I was desperate. So I did the most rational thing: l urged my husband to somehow be less awesome. He laughed.

“C’mon, they love you too!” he said, “And even if they don’t, you know, they might still come round.”

I didn’t find it funny.

Trying to be helpful, he suggested I loosen up, “You know, just be less rigid.”

Less rigid, huh? I can do that. Easy as pie. Who even came up with this “easy as pie”? A man who doesn’t grate apples or washes dishes I’ll bet. Well, no more pie! No more matching socks, rationed snacks, or three course meals. Lucy Goosey, that’s what I’d be.

Until I wasn’t. A messy house, dubiously nourished kids, mismatched socks, and otherwise failing brownie points, I couldn’t do it.

I ditched my research and slipped back into the nagging, behind-the-scenes family maker. I ran my home rigidly and I did it well.

I divided Costco chips into ziplock snack bags and took stock of our groceries before placing an order. I prodded vegetables down reluctant throats and admonished the kids to wear coats. Sparkly Mommy wasn’t in my DNA, I realized sadly.

But at least the sparkly daddy was a sparkly husband too.

Every morning before leaving the house at dawn, he’d leave a hot cup of coffee on my nightstand. Our three year old daughter, his morning rooster, insisted on one too. That’s how the ritual started. A piping hot cup of coffee for me, and a big cup of hot cocoa, a saucer and a spoon to scoop up the chocolate residue, for his princess.

Except each morning, while the hot coffee got gratefully drained, the hot cup of pink hearts stayed untouched. Every morning without fail, after dropping her off at school, I’d take the sad cup of cold cocoa and dump it. Even on the days when she magically slept in, he prepared it, covering the hot cup with a lid so it stayed nice and warm.

I don’t know why it bugged me, maybe because the baby pulled at the tablecloth and spilled one cup too many, or maybe it was just the bother of dumping it each morning. Whatever it was, I grumbled about it every morning. What a waste. Almost like buying five doughnuts when we need only three.

One rainy day, the kind of day where everyone sleeps in and you make the bus with un-brushed teeth and socks turned inside out, my husband forgot. He rushed out of the house without making his sleeping little girl’s cup of hot cocoa.

She woke up, matted hair falling over her deep brown eyes and ran to the kitchen. “Daddy didn’t prepare my coffee!” she cried.

“But you never drink it anyhow,” I reasoned as I yanked her leggings up and wondered when my husband started calling it “coffee”.

“But Daddy makes it for me,” she pouted.

“Here, I’ll make you one just like Daddy,” I said, shoving toast in her mouth.

“NO!” She yelled, “I want Daddy’s coffee. I like Daddy’s coffee!”

And I got it. Daddy is awesome. His awesomeness isn’t in things he gives, or does. It’s in the thing he is. This big, joyful, and generous teddy bear who buys too many doughnuts and says too few nos.

This gigantic hero who makes our home complete so I can have a blessed time-out at prime cranky hour and run a home that isn’t Lucy Goosey but safe and wholesome. A home that has room for a Daddy who indulges and disciplines with glitter and giggles.

It does sting when the only time my kids say, “But Mommy makes it for me!” is when they need their hair brushed or their homework done. But maybe we don’t need a sparkly Mommy when there is a sparkly Daddy, Lays potato chips, and drained coffee… oh, and a warm cup of untouched cocoa.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 617)

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