The Wife With One F has been going to school to get her nursing degree for more than a year now. That's more than a year of night school and part time jobs to save up, ten hour clinicals, 17 course hours in twelve weeks, and just in general the gauntlet that they put you through to make sure that when you get out and among the sick you are thoroughly trained.
Because of her hellish course load and all the studying it entails, my wife is rarely home alone with our daughter, and almost never takes her out in public by herself. There's just no time for a day off from the studying, and short breathers are so infrequent that we spend them as a family all together. The rest of the time it's me taking the kid out of the house by myself so my wife can sequester herself back in the cave of knowledge.
Recently she got a two week break between semesters, and set a whole day aside to do whatever my daughter wanted just the two of them. That turned out to be the Children's Museum because the kid is obsessed with the superhero stage show that they have going on right now. So after consulting me on things like parking, food availability, cost and the like, off they went while I headed out to the day job.
Several hours later I got a call from a very tired sounding wife as they headed home.
"Your child threw a screaming fit in the bathroom."
Turns out there was some sort of South Korea/North Korea dispute over whether my daughter should use the child-sized potty or the adult, and it degenerated from there. For the rest of the day my wife called herself pretty much every name in the book, but mostly horrible mother, and variants on that theme all because during the rare day she's able to have a Just Girls Afternoon there's a meltdown.
I feel very bad for the Wife With One F. When the kid and I go out there's a constant stream of iPhone pics showing a smiling blond four-year-old doing adorable little four-year-old things. It's Foursquare check-ins with witty one-liners related to the antics of youth. When I come home I look exhausted, but I just have that kind of a face. In short, every single outing between father and daughter looks like a page out of Awesome Parent Magazine.
And sweetie, it's all a terrible, terrible lie.
There has never been a single time I have ever taken our little miracle out into the real world that she has not at some point degenerated into a screaming psychopath unable to see reason or express herself without berserker warcries. Her howls of self-righteous indignation over capricious, half-imagined slights have echoed across halls of learning and whimsy from one end of Houston to other.
I just don't take pictures of her when she's doing it, and I don't stop it because her rage, her constant unending fury, has eroded all the nerve endings in my body until I'm numb. Do other folks in Whole Foods eye me with the same distaste of someone who doesn't clean up after their dog takes a Cleveland Brown all over the sidewalk? Yep, they sure do. Do I feel their judgment pricking in my soul? Like a backflip into a hedgehog pit, yes I do.
If you're a bad parent, my love, then oh my god I am terrible at this.
The last time I took her to the Children's Museum I made her put on a smock in the little art school they have, and she threw it off, knocking over three cans of paint all over another child.
When we went to the Natural History Museum she ran off into a cordoned off area and lay down on the ground. She refused to move, so I tried to calm her down with an episode of Scooby Doo on my iPhone. A guard told us we had to move, and I ended up carrying her like a tiny football while she kicked me so hard in the crotch that our decision to have no more children is anatomically set in stone.
I took her to Chick-Fil-A... yes, even though some of the money I blew on her kid's meal will probably go into the pockets of a man who will spend it on some sort of homophobic hate group. She wanted to go to a playground and it is so hot outside I just wanted to wear her out and get her fed at the same time. She repaid this by dipping her hair in her ketchup.
She's told three people in public I'm not her daddy... including a security guard. That one was fun.
I screamed at her once that she couldn't have a balloon. I was buying a bottle of wine and Zebra Cakes at that exact moment.
The reason I'm sharing all of these low points in my career as a parent is because I know that in any relationship one person at any given time is going to be taking care of the kids more than the other. Right now that's me while my wife pursue her studies, and I know that sometimes it makes her feel guilty. What better proof of your failure as a mom than a meltdown in the middle of an awesome museum full of superheroes?
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The truth is all greater proximity to our angel has enabled is that I get to see her worst bits more than my wife. I just didn't tell her about them because I didn't want her to feel bad about it. It happens though. All. The. Time.
Other parents out there? Don't make my mistake. Let your spouse know that sometimes when you're alone with your kid you just totally mess everything up. You fail, too. Don't ever let your spouse think you've got this stuff figured out perfectly. If you do, they're going to be really surprised when something overwhelms your ability to deal with it.
More importantly, they deserve to know about your goofs and low grades in the parenting department. No one likes feeling that they're alone in a struggle.