As life-long learners, we often acquire new job skills. Parenting skills are usually gained “on the job.” Along the journey, I learned how to trim hair and teach a sixth grader how to correctly tie a tie. As a left-hander, teaching our son, also a left-hander, how to tie his shoes was not very difficult. We learned to share tasks and assisted with homework questions. My wife, the language expert, could help with grammar questions. I was better equipped to answer the math/science questions for our two children. It took me over forty years and fatherhood to be involuntarily in charge of taking care of two guinea pigs.
Life’s experiences do not provide a universal skill set. Like most working couples, my wife and I had rather defined tasks for getting ourselves and our children ready for school and work. As a high school teacher with a fixed daily schedule, my wife normally left for school by 6:00 AM to avoid teen drivers and to be ready for the 7:30 AM start of school. One particular morning, however, my wife left earlier for work. And that was the day of the fateful event for our daughter.
On that morning in question and with great annoyance and dismay, our young daughter moaned that Mom couldn’t make her ponytail so I was her last resort and tasked with this. I had absolutely no experience in fashioning ponytails. I knew I was in trouble when she told me I was brushing her hair too gently. Never having made a ponytail for anyone including myself, I knew this was going to be a daunting task. Nonetheless, I cajoled her and said I would try and do my best for her as her complaints became louder and more frequent.
First and foremost, I was told that the ponytail had to be perfectly centered and the elastic holding it had to be turned several times to keep the pony tail firmly in place during her active school day. Several thwarted attempts did not pass her discerning muster. After looking into the mirror, and several rounds of complaints, I thought I had done a pretty good job considering this was my first attempt ever. Our daughter quickly deflated that notion by looking once again into the mirror with a big scowl of annoyance, declaring that there were too many bumps in her hair.
Disgruntled, our daughter stormed out the door to the bus and couldn’t wait until she got home to tell my wife how Daddy didn’t know how to make a ponytail. All her friends at school knew she had bumps in her hair too! After relating my ponytail experiences with female colleagues at work, they laughed and said they knew precisely about what our daughter had complained bitterly to me. Needless to say, I was never afforded another opportunity to fashion her ponytail for school. Every now and then, I am reminded about this day.
(Note: this week’s blog entry is courtesy of my husband, Russell Nemecek, who has never been asked to make a ponytail again.)