Some nights, Prince Charming sleeps on the sofa.
And I love him for it.
We’ve driven around the country together. We’ve crossed the Atlantic. We’ve jammed up against each other, close and personal, in tight train cabins across eastern Europe. We’ve spent nights apart, wishing for the warmth of the familiar body even while relishing the chance to stretch out. We’ve yelled at each other. We’ve given the silent treatment. We’ve laughed. We’ve stayed up too late, slept in, or gotten up too early and did it all again. I’ve dented his expensive guitar. He’s hurt my fragile female heart. We’ve laughed and learned and looked confused with each other’s mothers. We’ve given both sets of in-laws grey hairs and their first grandchildren. He’s eaten burned dinners and cold ones. I’ve learned to live on his paycheck. He buys the good shoes. I’ve had to admit impulse shopping. I’ve carried all his children. He’s wiped the tears of all of mine. We’ve gained weight and sympathy weight; our shapes have changed. Our lives have changed because of how much life we’ve done together.
There’s a video floating around the internet of some guys experiencing pregnancy and labor. They get hooked up to machines to simulate the pains of childbirth. I don’t know if they make it through and get a milkshake at the end of the whole ordeal (which I consider a very necessary part of the delivery process.) I haven’t watched the video. There are times it’s helpful to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, but I don’t believe my husband would be a better guy if he walked this one. He can’t walk the marathon miracle race of childbirth. He can’t mimic the days of nesting instinct that cause mothers to rearrange the sofas through Braxton Hicks contractions. He can’t feel the unborn child kick as a big brother drapes himself across mom’s expansive belly. He can’t experience the wash of hormones that allow mamas to take another breath and push.
But he wouldn’t be a better dad or husband if he did.
His own two feet have been imprinted with legos in the middle of the night, but he bore it silent so as not to wake mama or baby.
His own feet have grown numb in the pre-dawn winter cold when he drove to another day of work in a minivan with a sluggish heater.
His own feet have paced the emergency room floor with a sick child at night.
His own feet have come home repeatedly to a disheveled house and tired wife rather than spend the evening with friends.
His own feet have warmed his wife’s cold ones even when they went to bed not speaking to each other.
His own feet have worn mismatched socks because no one had attempted to scale laundry mountain in the living room for too long.
His own feet have been rolled over by his son in a wheelchair.
His own feet have often carried the weight of two children up and down the stairs.
His own two feet have often hit the cold floor before light so he’d have time to read and pray before spending a long day at work.
I don’t expect him to walk a mile in my shoes. I’d rather he be man enough to go shoe shopping in the ladies’ section with his wife.
Sometimes I have gotten upset because he wasn’t doing the dishes, or helping with the homeschooling, or scaling the side of laundry mountain. Sometimes he doesn’t look for a honey-do list first thing on a weekend. Sometimes he keeps the kids up past bedtime, or offers them ice cream at dinner time. Sometimes he disciplines them differently than I would. Sometimes he falls asleep when I want to talk. Sometimes he forgets to touch me as much as I need him to since I’m a slow-cooker and he’s a microwave. Sometimes he and I really don’t think the same.
And sometimes I’m patient enough to remember that is a good thing.
We’ve been made very different because we were both incomplete alone. Sometimes marriage highlights the differences, and it makes for Hollywood-worthy drama. Or comedy. But Hollywood misses the fact that marriage, like wine or wood, or cheese, or sex, gets better with age.
Sometimes real husbands sleep on the sofa so that a sore tired mama and a new baby won’t be woken by an early alarm.
That’s love right there.
Happy Father’s Day, Prince Charming.