This was originally posted by the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub here.

One of the Early Learning Hub’s Core Messages is this: Parenting can sometimes be overwhelming. Balancing the demands of work, childcare, financial and emotional stress, may be all you think you can handle. There’s another part to it, but we’ll get to that later. I’d like to focus on this first part right now as it is extremely prevalent in our lives at the moment. You see I am in the middle of day four of my recovery from an appendectomy. I was sick for a couple of days with a nagging abdominal pain last week in the middle of a very busy and stressful time at work. There was plenty going on at home as well and in the middle of it all…my least useful and seemingly pointless organ decided to revolt. So I’ve been forced to rest…to not help…and to not “lift anything over 15 pounds for two weeks”…sorry kids…

My wife, as usual, has been amazing. Taking care of the kids, of me, keeping up with her babysitting job and her side business with essential oils, and doing all of this while getting her normal amount of “sleep” (definitely not 8 hours, and definitely not uninterrupted). My kids for their part have been doing great. I’ve only had a few wild hugs and cuddles that I worried would reopen my scars and they have been very caring, patient and kind even though I have been able to give them a lot less of the father they are used to. They can definitely feel it though, and last night we caught a glimpse of it with my son.

In preschool he made a few very good friends that he played with nearly every time he went to school. Unfortunately, one of those friends moved away towards the end of the year, and while he handled it very well when he found out, he has had a few moments of sadness hitting him throughout the last few months. Last night, after multiple tuck-ins from my wife, was one of those times when he was missing his friend. My wife is exhausted, she’s barely had a break (thank you to our family for those few moments!) the kids have kept her on her toes and instead of two kids and a partner right now, she’s got two kids and a slightly bigger kid who can’t do a lot for himself.

Yet, in spite of all of this…she found the strength and patience to meet my son where he was last night. She sensed his emotions and his very real sadness. She didn’t snap at him to go back to bed when he came out for the third time. She didn’t threaten to take away toys or privileges. She met his emotional needs. She gave him extra cuddles, showed him pictures of his friend from preschool and turned on some music to help him go to sleep. She set aside what she was dealing with so she could be fully present with what he was dealing with. She modeled selfless kindness and caring that I have already seen my kids learning and practicing because of her.

So what was that other part of the message you might be thinking?  Here it is: But with support and small adjustments, you can also help prepare your child to realize his/her potential, and to do well in school and life. My wife keeps this last part of this message all the time. I feel like it’s ingrained in her DNA. She sets aside her worries, her stress, her baggage as much as she can so that she can help my children deal with their worries, their stress and their baggage and in so doing is modeling kindness and caring that can make this difficult world a much brighter and gentler place. Caring, kindness and empathy can be taught, just as well as you can teach reading, writing and arithmetic. I’m glad that my wife is such a great teacher.

This is fatherhood…