The beer glasses were chilling in the freezer, awaiting the arrival of the aficionado who loves his hops in a frosty mug. A plastic bucket was also stashed in there, packed with ice cream, waiting for the little girl who would invariably request it sometime after dinner that evening.
Dessert time. I opened the freezer and grabbed the ice-cream bucket by the handle. A beer glass leapt out at me. In a mad scramble of hands, elbows, and confusion, I juggled then dropped the ice-cream bucket, caught the beer glass, and congratulated myself on a nimble feat. Then I got mad.
“Did you even think about the way you had that thing wedged in there?” I shot at my husband. “What if that had been Kate pulling the ice cream out of the freezer? Broken glass! Everywhere! She could have gotten hurt!”
“But she didn’t do that. You always get her ice cream, and you can see there’s a glass in there. I didn’t think it would be a problem. But I’m sorry I put it so close to the ice cream. You’re right; it could have been a mess.”
Sheepishly, I admitted he was actually right. I can see the glass in the freezer; I usually do, and this whole thing wasn’t an enormous issue. But, hey, I’m a mom. I can’t help coming up with “What If?” scenarios. I’m an expert at the technique. I’ve noticed, though, in my years of mothering, that daddies seem to play that game less often than mommies do. The way a daddy thinks is just a little bit different.
My husband doesn’t meditate on every possible permutation of a frosty mug/ice cream combo in the freezer, and he doesn’t look ahead to every conceivable horror that could befall our children. He doesn’t fret every time our teens hit the road. He refrains from instructing our 10-year-old not to ride her bike down a steep (well, I think it’s steep) hill. He doesn’t obsess over the fact that I didn’t make everyone apply another coat of bug repellent before that last hike, and he doesn’t seem to lie awake at 3:00 a.m. worrying about our children’s futures.
Does his approach mean that he somehow loves our daughters less fervently than I do? Of course not. It just means that he loves them differently. Daddy-love seems, at times, a little messier, perhaps a little less calculating. There is more abandon and less worry.
It started early at our house. My husband gleefully tossed our baby girls in the air. As they shrieked with delight, I fretted, then relented and smiled. He didn’t so much push a stroller as drive it like a Nascar racer, dodging rocks and cracked pavement. “Faster, Daddy, faster!” I bit my tongue, relented, and ran to catch up. During road trips, he made the car dance. “Faster, Daddy, faster!” I scolded, then laughed. When he taught our daughters to ride a bike, he let go of the handlebars before I thought they were ready to balance. And yet they rode away, giddy and triumphant. I laughed. And then I cried—and thanked him for teaching them how to ride away without looking back.
My baby girls were once nestled in my womb, safe and warm and close. And though I know it’s impossible to do so, I want to arrange them just as neatly in the world. I dream of a haven, a happy place where I can plop them down, without fear or worry, secure in the knowledge that no harm will ever befall them.
Daddies know that the world doesn’t work that way, at least not on this side of heaven. Children leave the womb, pedal away on the bike, tool off in the car, and shriek happily, “Faster, life, faster!” Our fallen world isn’t neat, nor is it always safe or warm, and glass is sometimes hiding near the ice cream. Yes, it might break. When it does, my sweet and wise husband helps me sweep up the mess. And I’m reminded that I ought to be grateful for God’s strange and wonderful plan, which includes the unique way a daddy thinks.