When I was in college I spent one summer as a nanny for one of the directors of a sports camp in Southern Missouri. I spent my days entertaining and supervising his children and most of our social network included other kids of camp directors. I got to know the moms very well and enjoyed watching their mothering styles as I looked ahead to my own future as a mother some day.
It surprised me greatly one day when one of the moms made a comment to me about not trusting her husband. She revealed to me, very casually, that she could not leave her preschoolers home alone with their dad because he often put them in situations that were downright unsafe. He had no intention of being a negligent parent, he just didn’t see the world the same way as his wife and disagreed with what he considered her irrational fears.
I was intrigued by her dilemma so I asked her for specifics. “Well, for instance,” she began, “last week he took two of them with him to the store to get milk. He drove them in his Jeep, with the top down, and didn’t make them wear seatbelts.” (this was before booster seats were common) “He said he wanted them to feel the rush of the wind blowing through their hair as they zipped along the windy back roads.”
It baffled me that any parent could think that was an appropriate activity to do with small children. I must have looked confused because she then went on to describe what a wonderful dad he was otherwise. He was caring, gentle, loving and playful with their children. He provided them with a nice house and a comfortable bank account so the mother could stay home from work. He was the first one up when one of them cried in the night.
The only problem seemed to be that she couldn’t trust him with their safety.
Her stories made a deep impression on me. I had a general list in my head of what my ideal mate might be like, but being able to trust him with small children didn’t seem to be necessary to add. I assumed any man who had those other good qualities, would be commonsensical when it came to little people, especially his own. For the first time it dawned on me that this might not be the case.
I have thought about that mom many times as I’ve raised my own kids. There are so many situations we’ve been in where it was imperative that I could trust Jeff to make wise, safe choices for our children. Many times I tried to imagine living the life that camp mom did, and I couldn’t imagine not trusting my own spouse.
Every time he took them on long walks in the woods, where they had to cross streams and walk along deep ledges, I had to trust him. When I checked into the hospital, either to give birth again or to have yet another surgery on my foot, I had to trust that he would make good decisions for them. As they’ve gotten older and their lives include things like air soft guns and cliff diving opportunities, I have to trust him.
I have to know, deep in my soul, that he would never allow them to do anything that might be above and beyond an average risk. And it’s been nice to be able to say, every single day of our life together, that I do trust him, sometimes even more than myself.
This point was made very clear to me on a day last week when I found myself in the very back seat of our minivan, a passenger in a vehicle being driven by my son, who had just received his driver’s permit. It was only his second time behind a wheel, both times in the safety of a large empty parking lot, but it was enough to scare the crap out of me.
Fortunately his dad was in the front passenger’s seat, giving patient guidance and calm directions, just as he did for our oldest child just two years ago. I was rarely involved in teaching our daughter to drive. Her dad took her out on long drives in the country and repeated trials on the highway, to make sure she knew as much as she could about this art of driving before she took her final test.
I knew as soon as her brother decided he wanted his turn at the wheel, Jeff would step up once again and play the role of driving instructor. And he has.
To his great credit, he has.
So as I was chauffeured around the large expanse of empty parking lot the other night I was doing everything I could to keep my mouth shut. I just happened to be there, and it was not my place to butt in on the expert’s instruction. I did my best to keep quiet and the conversation I’d had with camp mom so many years ago kept coming back to me.
By the time we turned the corner to drive home I had found a new, calming mantra to quiet my nerves. “Thank God I married a man I can trust. Thank God I married a man I can trust.”
In his long list of great attributes, one of my all time favorites is that he’s a man I can trust.