Dad and blogger Clint Edwards has never been shy about sharing his marriage and parenting lessons, including the occasional misstep or mistake. The upside of his candor is not only the chance to learn from Edwards’ experiences, but also a glimpse into modern marriage and parenting.
That honest — and often apologetic — look at Dad Life is at the heart of Edwards’ new book, “I’m Sorry … Love, Your Husband.” In it, Edwards explores the reality of being a busy dad of three, the twists and turns of becoming a husband and father, and what he learned in the process.
Sprinkling insight and experience with humor, Edwards hits on deep truths about marriage and parenting. Here are just a few of the times, he nails one of those truths:
Why telling your wife she’s beautiful is essential, but won’t eliminate her feelings of insecurity … especially where bathing suits are concerned.
Though Edwards sincerely meant it when he told his wife she looked amazing in her new bathing suit, the half smile she gave him said it all. Because when you’ve had three children, confidence in your appearance is complicated. And husbands don’t always understand why their compliments get a subdued reaction.
One of the more frustrating and difficult notions for me to understand as a husband and father is that my opinoin of Mel’s beauty isn’t the one that really matters. Her opinion of herself is the important one, and even though I regularly tell her she’s beautiful, she needs to feel attractive, and that can be hard to do when the world is telling mothers that they just aren’t sexy.
When your wife sends you multiple increasingly aggravated texts about how bad her day is, she might not be complaining. And she isn’t trying to make you feel guilty. She just needs to tell someone about it.
Edwards writes about how he almost got into a competition about who was having a tougher time (he was at work, she was alone with the kids on a Sunday), when he realized his wife’s texts about how hard her day was weren’t aimed at him.
There is a difference between venting and complaining. Complaining is asking for change. When Mel complains, she wants me to present her with an alternative. Venting is getting it off your chest. This is where Mel just wants me to listen to her frustrations. This is the same as when I come home and complain about students I work with. I don’t expect Mel to solve the problem (although sometimes she does help me think through a situation).
That taking your wife somewhere nice isn’t a waste of money — even when the budget is tight. It’s a chance to see each other in a different way.
Edwards writes that because they were on a budget for the first decade of their marriage, years passed before he took his wife somewhere really nice. But seeing her in a nice restaurant made him realize that the time, effort, and money weren’t a waste. And he wanted to go back in time and slap his former self for “being such a cheap prick.”
In that moment, being somewhere nice with my wife felt like an investment in her.
I’d never looked at it like that before. […] Nor had I ever taken the time to actually do it, so I hadn’t realized how a nice restaurant, no kids, could look so good on my wife. I hadn’t realized that her voice could go so well with the music or that her smile could match the sunset or that her blue eyes shine a little brighter next to a chandelier. I know this is all a bit mushy, but in that moment I felt a simple resurgence of love for my wife, and all it took was a change of setting.
How parenting means taking ten times as long to do a job because you’re trying to be a good parent and teach your children to be responsible. And in return, they act as though you’re trying to torture them.
Describing the process of getting his son Tristan to help with the yard work, Edwards identifies exactly why parenting is sometimes a battle between trying to pass on values and the desire not to spend the whole day on something that should take an hour:
Every project with Tristan “helping me” has been more about me redirecting him. Arguing with him. Trying desperately to keep him focused long enough to gain a work ethic. And I think what I really want is for Tristan to leave my house knowing how to work, but teaching him how to work felt like more work, and sometimes it feels like all I do is work.
I mean, honestly, if I had a choice between having him help me with a project and slamming my hand in a car door, I’d take the car door. It would be less painful.
The moment you discard all of your highly principled positions about Disney princesses (or some other inescapable child trend) because seeing your child so happy makes everything else unimportant.
Having once written an article about why his daughter was not going to be a Disney princess, Edwards was upset to learn that while he was on Space Mountain at Disneyland, his wife had taken his daughter to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for a princess makeover. Then he saw his little girl in her chosen Aurora gown and tiara, taking in her new look in a mirror surrounded by chirping plastic birds:
Norah’s life basically peaked in that moment. I’ve never seen her glow so brightly.
And then something happened. The second she saw herself I melted, from my head to my toes. I felt warmth in my heart. I felt a sense of wonder that, as a man, I have a difficult time defining or describing, but if I were going to try to give it a name, it would be a mix of pride and love. My eyes grew moist, not tears exactly, but something close.
Realizing that this was his, “new favorite memory,” with his daughter, Edwards then went with his daughter for her princess photo shoot.
The painful process of accepting that you’re going to buy a minivan, that being a parent means letting go of your pretensions to coolness, and that having enough room to drive the kids around is its own reward.
When you first become a parent, you think it’s possible to hold on to the things that made you cool. (In Edwards’ case, it was his punk albums.) But reality intrudes, as does the fact that it’s hard to cram three children in a small sedan. And it turns out that trying to stay cool only makes you very uncool:
I assumed that if I held on to what I thought was cool, I’d never become what I’d always dreaded: a dorky father. But it doesn’t work that way because parents are uncool by definition, and when parents try to stay cool, they become that guy in the ’90s still sporting a mullet and listening to Whitesnake, or, in my case, that guy in 2012 still holding onto his Blink-182 albums, band patches and baggy JNCO jeans. I’d become an anachronism, living in my own bubble, stuck in an era where I was the coolest, while everyone around me thought, “You need to grow up.”
Two weeks into having a minivan, here’s what I found out: Although I looked like an old fart in the thing, I’d never felt more comfortable traveling with my children.
How important macaroni and cheese is to parents, and why that means you end up eating at Red Robin a lot.
“We went to Red Robin because it was a middle ground kind of place, not actually nice, but sort of nice, with a bunch of crazy crap on the walls and overpriced mac ‘n’ cheese. You laugh, but mac ‘n’ cheese is pretty critical to parents of small children. In fact, if you are worried about parenting, buy mac ‘n’ cheese. Don’t fight it. Just buy the hell out of that shit.”