(top left): 1981: My dad and mom, with a new me. (top right): 1953: My grandfather, Joseph York, with my mom. I always thought Joe looked just like Billy Graham. (middle right): Circa early 1970’s: A trio of Booker dads: My dad, Phil (Phillip Wayne), his dad, Paul Whitaker, and my uncle Bill (Paul William). It had been Grandma’s idea to give them all the initials P.W. (bottom): The father of my child, on the night she was born.
This morning, as I let my daughter press the button on our coffee machine, I was reminded of all the times when I was about her age, growing up in Rota, Spain, when my dad would let me press the button on the bean grinder (ground being unavailable). Maybe that’s why java’s lusty aroma always makes me smile.
I never knew why the grinder was always on the floor (near a self-portrait of Albrecht Durer framed in “gold,” leaning against a closet), but now I know that it was so I could be a part of the process (if not a consumer of the product).
And that’s partly what parenthood–be it motherhood or fatherhood–is all about: Taking the time with your children.
When I found out I was going to have a baby, it took me a while to realize that my parents’ example had given me all the tools I needed to be a good mom, for we learn how to parent from our parents (whether good or bad), just as they learned from theirs.
A man learns how to be a father from having one.
From my dad, I learned that you can survive horrendous cooking (so long as it errs on the side of overcooked), that you can put up with a lot of crap from another person because they put up with a lot of crap from you, and that good acting isn’t using four-letter words and taking your clothes off.
But the greatest lesson learned was that I was just as valuable for being born a girl as my brother was for being a born a boy.
As for the father of my child, I can do what I do (go to school to better myself so that I can better our financial situation) because he does what he does (be a stay-at-home dad)—just as my dad supported my mom when she decided to join the military.
That’s what being a husband is sometimes: Not “letting” your wife do whatever she wants but supporting her so that she can feel good about doing what she needs.