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I like to think of myself as a pretty good dad. I adore my son beyond words and I try my damnedest to do a good job and to be present and open for my beautiful boy. But when it comes to being a parent, I can't even begin to compare to my wife, who is an absolutely amazing mother. If parenting were school, I'd be getting B's and angling to get into a pretty good Big 10 university, while my wife would be the universally beloved and respected President of Harvard.
Not long after my wife and I started dating, she told me that she thought she was put on earth to be a mother. That seemed like a bit of an odd thing to say someone you'd only been seeing for a few months, but the ensuing years proved her right. While my wife is a great teacher and a wonderful spouse, being a mother is what she's best at.
She has a connection with our son Declan far more intense than my own. Part of this is attributable to the physical dimension of motherhood. For nearly nine often painful and brutally uncomfortable months, my wife carried my son in her womb. They inhabited the same body.
Then my wife endured even more agonizing pain and discomfort for our son's sake when he was delivered via C-section a month early. Despite his time in the NICU, she breastfed exclusively for the first 8 months of our son's life. Declan was no longer renting a cozy little spot inside my wife, but that physical connection remained intense because she was feeding him with nourishment from her own body. He was dependent on her (and to a much less extent, me) for just about everything.
I also know that our roles as mother and father will change and shift and evolve over time.
But my wife is better suited to parenthood in other ways as well. She's the most maternal woman I've ever met. She devotes her entire life to helping babies, both as a gifted preschool teacher and as a passionately invested mother. I, on the other hand, didn't take immediately to fatherhood. It took me a few months to really feel comfortable being a dad, and before I became a father, I never even really interacted that much with babies or children.
I'm okay with my wife being a much better parent than I am because I understand that at this stage in Declan's development, he needs his mother far more than he needs me. And because my wife is such a natural when it comes to parenting, I don't have the kind of pressure that I would have if I were a single father like my dad was before me.
I also know that our roles as mother and father will change and shift and evolve over time. Their sweet and innocent bond will give way to something more complicated and cerebral and, by nature, a little more distant. I also know that I'll be able to do things for Declan that my wife is not able to do, like explain the infield fly rule or tell Declan the difference between Superman and Batman (I wish I was joking or exaggerating, but I'm really not.) And, if it matters at all, I'm a better dog owner than my wife.
Parenting is a long journey. In many ways, my wife and I have only just begun and while I'd like to think that I will narrow the yawning gap in our parenting skills in the years to come, I'm also lucky to have a wife, a soulmate and a partner in life's most important and rewarding adventure who sets the bar for being not just a good parent, but a great one, so impossibly high.