Thursday, August 11, 2005

Best Compliment Ever

The Wife’s parents (I’ll call them Howard and Marion, after the Cunninghams) are local and retired, so they see The Boy and The Girl quite a bit. (They’re the unbelievably valuable first line of defense on the babysitting front, among other things. It’s hard to convey to non-parents just how huge that is.)

The Wife’s brother (I’ll call him Biff) is also relatively local, and he and his wife (let’s say, Buffy) have two daughters (Tadpole and The Moppet).* Tadpole and The Moppet are older than The Boy and The Girl, although The Moppet is only a year older than The Boy (and quite a bit shorter).

Tadpole and The Moppet were relatively cool towards Howard when they were little. The Wife and I suspect that it may have been because Buffy was extremely attentive, and Biff was relatively distant. (That dynamic has changed over the years, but it was true early on.) The Boy and The Girl, by contrast, have been happily affectionate towards Howard and Marion from the beginning (from the gecko, as Russian Violets’ students would say).**

Yesterday, in talking with The Wife to plan an outing to a train museum (for which The Boy has already chosen his outfit, with his striped conductor’s hat matching his striped shorts), Marion commented that Howard was really looking forward to it, since The Boy and The Girl are always so happy to see him. Marion added that she thinks they respond to Howard because I’m so involved with them, so they don’t automatically see adult men as scary and distant figures.

This may be the best compliment I’ve ever received.

I won’t deny for a minute that there’s a double standard here – dads get complimented for doing a meaningful fraction of what moms are simply expected to do – but it’s also true that putting in the time and effort takes, well, effort. And it’s hard to get too caught up in academic politics when one of my first tasks upon getting home every day is to wipe somebody’s ass.

Thanks, Marion. I know I’ll hear all about the trains tonight.

*Tadpole and The Moppets would be a great name for a band.

**How does one indicate the possessive of a pseudonym that ends in ‘s’? Russian Violet’s students? That breaks her name up. Russian Violets’ students implies that there are many Russian Violets out there, which doesn’t seem right. The students of Russian Violets? That implies that she is the object of study, which is kind of creepy. Verily, a grammatical pickle.