Aspen Princess: Valley dads stand behind raise their kids, and being a pillar
November 28, 2018
I was at the playground with Levi the other day when a little boy and his dad were on the swings next to us. The little boy was sticking his tongue out, making funny noises.
"We don't do that, Billy," the dad said in a patient, even tone. "If you make that face, we'll have to go home."
It wasn't the first time I thought to myself, "Really?" I felt a little judgmental at first, and then, "Should I be teaching Levi the same thing?" Because honestly, we really haven't been focusing on stuff like that. I'm more concerned about him hurtling heavy objects at my head, hitting and kicking. You know, stuff that makes me worry that my child might end up in juvi before the age of 5.
What really struck me is how often I see little ones with their dads during the week. It's dads at the playground, dads at the grocery store and dads at the Sundeck taking care of the littles while mom takes a few runs.
These guys are pros. They aren't messing around. They take on parenting the way they probably take on fixing stuff around the house or heading out for a backcountry adventure. They have the right tools. They have enough food and water. They are ready for whatever these 2-foot-tall tyrants have in store for them.
Once, we were at the ice rink in Aspen for Ryan's Sunday night hockey game (you know, the rec league where all these grown men act like a bunch of toddlers, hitting and shoving and calling each other names as if they were in the NHL). Our friend John was there watching his two little ones so his wife could play. He had a bag of tricks that made me feel like a serious amateur. He had snacks. He had drinks. He even had special containers to keep the mac and cheese warm. My poor child, who was provided with none of these things, poached from John as the kids ran laps around the lobby. Every time he came back around, he had a fistful of something else. Pretzels. Goldfish. Apple slices. Carrot sticks.
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"You sure do come prepared," I said to John.
He shrugged. "We came straight from skiing so I kind of have to be."
I nodded as if I were capable of the same level of preparedness, which I'm not. I am horrible. I am the parent who wets a paper towel in the bathroom because I forgot to pack the wipes. Don't get me wrong — I try to do my best most days, but my point is that the guys in this valley are not afraid to step up to the caretaking role.
This is a far cry from my parent's generation. My own father is a brilliant psychiatrist who knows his way around the human brain and has a pretty good handle on anatomy after having gone through medical school. But the guy can't change a diaper to save his life. And unless you consider scrambling two eggs inside a coffee cup as and sticking it in the microwave "cooking" he doesn't know his way around the kitchen, either.
"It's all my fault," my mom always says. "I created this monster."
He had nothing to do with taking care of us as kids, other than those fun and unforgettable weekend excursions to the beach or to go skiing on the rare occasion my mom was indisposed for whatever reason. Think about this: we would ride in the back of his Mazda RX7 on a mattress, lying on our backs because his car was a two-seater. We'd stare out the glass of the hatchback and watch the sky go by. What seatbelts?
When we decided to go ahead and start a family, I assumed Ryan would make a great mother. I wanted a family but was not one of these women who went nuts over babies. I had never taken care of a baby in my life. I'd never changed a diaper or fed a kid a bottle and the idea of breast-feeding totally freaked me out.
Ryan had taken care of his niece from the time she was born when he shared a house in Minneapolis with his brother, and he knew how to do all that stuff. He's one of these guys who is so manly that his masculinity is never threatened, even when he wears mirrored sunglasses with purple lenses or dons an apron to cook dinner. Let's just say he is not afraid to change a diaper and is in fact very anal about it (no pun intended). He's always criticizing my techniques, demonstrating how to properly secure the tape and pull the seams so the elastic is more comfortable around the baby's thigh.
To everyone's surprise, I fell in love with my baby from the first moment I held him in my arms. Turned out, I love babies. Turned out, I love being a mom, more than anything else I've ever done in my life.
But I gotta hand it to the men of this valley who are clearly helping their women out as much as they can. Maybe the women are working. Maybe they're training for a marathon or skinning up Highlands. They might be at yoga or maybe they're taking some time for themselves, out with a girlfriend or spending the afternoon at the spa.
Whatever it is, we are pretty damn lucky to live in a modern community with men who are willing to be our true partners. It's not always like that. It's one of the reasons I moved here, to a place where women are respected and revered but also encouraged to excel, to be the best we can be.
Next time you see a mom fly by you on the hill, just know that behind every mountain mamma is a man secure enough to let his woman shine.
The Princess is stoked for Highlands opening day. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.