By Lydia Jentzen Will

Hold still…don’t move!  Guys, come look at this.”

I’m sitting out on the lawn when he whispers in my ear.

“Eek!  What is it?  Get it off me!”

The kids come running up for a better look, inspecting something on my back.  “Awesome!”   “Cool!”

“It’s no big deal,” he grinned. “Just a caterpillar.”

“Get.It.Off!”  I shrieked.

He finally gently tugs the caterpillar free and I turn to see it there, in the palm of his hand – yellow and fuzzy and very much alive. The kids crowd closer for a better look and a chance to hold it. He referees the madness and I step back to take a moment to watch him with his kids.

I don’t always understand him. His ways of parenting these kids are not always the way I would do it. Sometimes I struggle against telling him how it should be done. I tend to be softer and offer more second chances. He stands firm and refuses to let his children misbehave.

I don’t always understand him.

We’re a perfect pair, really. And when I think about it, I know that I wouldn’t be able to be the mother I am without him beside me, a counterweight, keeping this cooperative parenting project balanced. Sometimes, because I’m the one at home all day, I find myself thinking that I’m the main parent, and that he just plays a supporting role. Not so. He is every bit as important to the development and the raising of these little ones as I am.

He’s a great father. Why is it sometimes I fail to notice? And when I do, why do I fail to tell him?  He brings a masculine quality to this family that I could never produce, and I see how it impacts the children. How they respect him and bask in his attention. How they respond to his standards, even if I think they are steep, without complaining.

Why is it sometimes I fail to notice?

I head inside and wash my hands and look at them all out there. He’s intervening now, taking the little caterpillar and setting him on a nearby tree, up and away from the inquisitive hands of 3 less-than-gentle kids. I try to remember the last time I told him I thought he was doing a great job…and couldn’t think of it. The last time I told him he was too hard on them? Well, unfortunately, that was much more recent.

What if I built him up, the father of my children? What if I told him all the things that I see him doing so right, the things I would never think of or be able to pull off that he does with such a natural grace? What if I saw our differences as being an asset to our children, giving them a well balanced childhood?

At bedtime, he takes over for me when the 3 year old becomes a challenge. I sit downstairs and hear my little one cry and know my husband is standing his ground.  It’s hard for me to hear.  My instinct is to rush up there and say “oh, it’s alright, he doesn’t have to stay in bed.”  But it’s 10 pm. He does need sleep.

It’s hard for me to hear.

And his father is merely sitting outside his door and refusing to let him out. I bite my tongue and, when he comes down stairs after a heroic bedtime battle, I breathe a little prayer of thanks. For a man who has strengths where I have weaknesses. For a husband who loves my kids enough to stand his ground. For a father to my kids who helps me be a better mother.