Herding Goofballs: May-triarch
May is a special time at Casa de Farnsworth.
The warmth returns to Central Massachusetts to allow me to officially put away the shovels without much guilt, my youngest celebrates his birthday - complete with modest demands of a Muppet-themed party with impressive fireworks display and a special someone else is celebrated. Twice, really.
My wife, Joyanna.
Mid-May specifically is a celebration of her birthday and Mother’s Day - some years on the same day. For a gift-buying procrastinator like me, it would usually mean double the red alert sirens sounding in my head trying to figure out several ways to honor/entertain/surprise her.
Her birthday wishes (at least when pandemics are not altering plans), however, are all about experiences. She happily foregoes the pricey goods and services for a trip with the kids and me. I believe the last few years before the pandemic have gone something like this:
2017: Trip to the zoo for the four of us. Trip to the beach for the four of us.
2018: Trip to the zoo for the four of us. Trip to the beach for the four of us.
2019: Any guesses?
How did I luck out?
When we all think forward as kids to the person we want to be with in the future as our “forever partner”, it’s typically an exercise in being superficial. As a kid, I was pretty sure that if I did marry someone, it would be another diehard sports fan whose idea of a romantic weekend was watching a marathon of college basketball games while eating more sugar than Buddy from “Elf.”
I’m 39, and that still sounds amazing, not going to lie.
Essentially, I wanted fate to deal me...well...a second me. But the best things about Joyanna, especially as my partner in crime when it comes to parenting, are that they are far from me.
She brings special things, thoughts, considerations, etc. I don’t always bring to the table. For example, in times when I may get frustrated with the goofballs about something, she can bring empathy to how they are feeling a lot quicker than I might (assuming I bring any empathy at all). When the kids want to cuddle in bed at 2 in the morning, I may roll my eyes. Joyanna rolls back the blanket and invites them to feel welcome and safe.
She selflessly plans ahead - not just on gifts for others (although, I guarantee she has Christmas present ideas already in motion) but to have herself and/or the kids get engaged in acts of kindness, like making a card or two for someone who is living by themselves and might be lonely during these pandemic times or calling up a friend to remind them how amazing they are and euphoric she still holds their time to be.
And by involving the kids in these actions, she is a superb role model for kindness - even when no one is banging down your door demanding it.
That’s Joyanna. (We’re working on the college basketball thing. One day at a time. ;))
She lends perspective I don’t always have. And that’s the beauty of parenting with someone you believe in - trusting that your combined perspective and love and energy can help you through so many sleepless nights.
That adaptability is something that comes in so much handier than I thought prior to being a parent. Much of parenting is improv theatre. There are three steps a day usually goes after you roll out of bed…
Make a plan
Hustle to try and execute that plan
When the plan goes sideways, rely on each other to steer the ship through choppy waters
You are co-captains and need to trust each other fully to steer at times.
Thinking about everything it means to have a partner in this crazy game called parenthood makes me believe May should include one more holiday… Single Parents’ Day.
I take that back, make it Single Parents’ Week.
Knowing how much work goes into parenting as a pair, I cannot fathom the energy needed to do it by yourself.
If you are a single parent and are reading this, I have two messages for you:
How on earth do you have time to read this???? Seriously, please send your secret to me. I have to bribe my children to give me the time just to write this column!
You are a special type of superhero.
If you know a single parent this May, go out and drop off a great homemade meal for them. If health concerns during this pandemic are okay in your universe, offer to take the kids for a full day so the parent can spend a day doing whatever s/he wants.
Superheroes don’t always ask for rewards. And yes, I know many would say that they are taking care of their kids, so that is the ultimate reward.
Those are the heroes that could use, at the very least, a reminder phone call of how you see them grinding and doing wonderful things (But come on, get them that massage anyways!)
As for me, I am going to continue reminding myself how lucky I am to have someone so unlike me co-piloting this experiment we call parenthood. Cheers to the woman I love.
Joyanna, thank you.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go take care of another gift. Our 10th anniversary is in early June and those zoo tickets sell out quickly.
Josh Farnsworth is a lucky husband, father of goofballs Cooper and Milo, goofball himself, and award-winning writer and columnist living in Worcester. He can be reached for column ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.