I love my wife.
She's everything I ever coveted in a woman - the symbolic class beauty who never knew I existed in high school but with whom I now share my life. She's drop dead gorgeous, smart, funny and confident enough in herself as a wife, mother and woman not to get hung up on defying traditional domestic role models. (It helps a lot that I do the dishes and the laundry.)
She's also an enabler.
When we got up this morning, Danielle announced to me that she was giving our 8 year old son, Charlie, a "mental health" day away from school. Charlie requested it, and what else was Mom going to say after she gave the 10 year old, Sam, his own mental health day earlier this week?
I tend to go with the flow and stay out of these things, because I'm not so old that I can't remember what it would have meant to me if my mother had told me I could take the day off from school, even if I wasn't sick. That's like Christmas without the tree.
But I also know children (I have four of them) and their gift for manipulation, and the boys play Danielle like a fiddle. A mental health day here and there probably isn't going to affect their eligibility for an Ivy League education (that ship sailed when I quit my relatively high-paying job) but the mental health days are only a symptom of a broader malaise.
The boys are both registered to take the bus to school. Neither one of them ever busts their balls to get to the bus stop on time, though, because they know Mom will drive them to school, whether or not she had time to put on pants and/or underwear. That's a dangerous proposition for a woman who frequently drives around on "empty," a wing and a prayer.
By her own admission, Danielle is not a cook, and I'm here to confirm it. Supper at our house on any given night could be frozen pizza, Frosted Flakes, Oreos, Eggos or any combination of the aforementioned. I think the last time we had fresh vegetables was 2006. That's not teaching the children a great deal about the importance of proper nutrition. I suppose I could do the cooking, but the last time I tried, the pork chops came out of the oven grey, and Charlie gagged and cried.
"Bedtime" at our house is 8:30 in theory, but that's a guideline at best. Last night, even the two year old was still up at 9:45, lying in bed with Charlie and me watching the U.S. 101st Airborne battle the Germans at Eindhoven on Band of Brothers. Again, I could have taken the parental initiative, but we're talking Band of Brothers, Operation Market Garden, WWII, the Big One. If that's not "me" time, what is?
Don't even get me started about the Tooth Fairy, who leaves five dollars(!) per tooth. I don't think my whole upper or lower plate got me five bucks when I was a kid. Do the math: at three children still at home, 5 dollars per tooth and 20 primary teeth per head, that's...(hang on a minute while I access the calculator on my desktop)...300 dollars. Hello?! Unemployed husband to Tooth Fairy: that's money we could be frittering away on food and shelter. I'm not saying leave them a ball of lint or dead bugs under their pillow, but cripes, we're not exactly the Rockefellers here.
So the Bird children muddle on towards an uncertain future, randomly taking days off school when they're not missing the bus with impunity, and being rewarded with inflated payoffs for teeth that are probably falling out prematurely because of poor eating habits.
But there's one thing at our house that is non-negotiable, and that's unconditional love and support for each other, regardless of circumstances (like quitting your relatively high-paying job). The rest is just details, and as long as we have each other's back and the Tooth Fairy gets with the program, we'll figure it out.