My kids are away at camp. I confess I enjoy the time without them and the many perks that come with their departure — the ability to be spontaneous with dinner plans or movie selections, for example. I also like writing them letters. In fact, I’m prolific, whipping off single-spaced, typed pages nearly everyday. I fill them in on news, sports, neighborhood stuff, movies, whatever comes to mind. If I’m not near my computer, I’ll grab a greeting card or postcard.
My wife, who works a time-consuming, demanding and stressful job, can’t keep up with my trips to the mailbox. At least once a summer she asks why I don’t sign both our names on my letters and share credit for them.
The simple answer is that this is one area I win in the parenting competition. I sometimes think my girls are keeping score of who’s the better parent or the more loving one, mom or dad. My wife may let them borrow awesome shoes and jewelry, but when it comes to letters to camp, I rock.
I understand how silly I’m being. There really is no competition between me and my wife. In fact, when it comes to rules and presents, we are generally a single, unified parental edifice, laying down the law and giving gifts in one voice. We either agree on these issues or have the good sense not to let the kids know we argued bitterly over the time of a curfew or the size of a birthday gift.
In so many other ways, we have separate, distinct relationships with our girls. Taking them for mani-pedi’s is my wife’s domain. I get most of the sports time, watching softball games and doing the postmortem at the dinner table. I ski with them, my wife takes them to movies.
My daughters are smart enough to understand they have two, unique, individual parents — their smart, great-looking, hard-working mother and me, their short, bald, beer-drinking dad. Obviously, they will have different relationships with each of us.
I think of their grandparents who always send cards and gifts signed, “Love Gram and Grandpa.” My girls aren’t fooled, always saying, “Look what Gram sent.” They know Grandpa had nothing to do with the shopping, shipping or signing. It’s not that he doesn’t love them, just that’s not his thing. He does other stuff, like take them to Harley-Davidson dealers to look at large, loud motorcycles, which my kids really like.
Likewise, they will accept me for who I am and what I’m able to offer. I talk politics and philosophy with them. I bring sketch books on hikes and vacations. Their mother brings something else to the picnic.
Mostly, though, we are two people who love and care for our daughters, sharing their lives and providing whatever it is we have to give, trying to create a greater whole from the sum of our parts.
Of course I would like it if I added a little more to the mix than my wife. In fact, this would be a really, super, special summer if I send my girls twice as many letters as my wife does, sort of like lapping her, just in case someone really is keeping score.