I made a mistake. Despite almost 16 years as a mother to all boys — boys whom I know absorb my comments and actions — I had a moment of weakness and forgot. I opened my mouth and bad, hurtful words came out.
My husband was about to put on swim trunks that he wore a decade ago.
Maybe I’ve mentioned this before, but Dustin does not like to throw things away. We could start a museum of military uniforms with the old ones, all in various sizes, he has stored in boxes in the basement. Our garage is purgatory on Earth for sneakers that have come to the end of their usefulness. I’m talking about holes in the toes and soles that flap like tongues. Still, Dustin will say, “But I might mow the grass in them one day.” So there they sit, waiting in line to mow the grass.
And don’t get me started on coffee mugs! Dustin has rescued many a coffee mug from the arms of garage sale shoppers. The mugs emerge from my kitchen cabinets again like a hand from the grave.
Of course, you could say that I’ve benefited from Dustin’s tendencies. He hasn’t thrown me away either. Not even after what I said last week.
We were about to go swimming in the lake with our boys when Dustin realized he forgot his usual 40-year-old-man bathing suit. Instead, he had a pair of short shorts that would make your 1980s gym teacher jealous.
“Don’t do that,” I said before I could stop myself, lest I be judged. (I don’t look so great in a bathing suit these days either.)
“Don’t do what?”
“Don’t go in the bathroom and put on that bathing suit,” I said.
Our three boys, ages 15, 13 and 9, were suddenly nearby, as they tend to be at the most inopportune times, always when I’m about to step in it.
“It’s the only bathing suit I have here at the lake,” Dustin said.
“Yeah, but you are a little too —”
I glanced at the children.
“I’m too what?”
“You’re a little too old and saggy now,” I said. Then I started to stammer. “I mean, you don’t have your 20-year-old body anymore … I mean, you’re just not that young … I mean, I’m not either, but I’m in this Lands’ End mom suit …”
Dustin went to the bathroom and put on the bathing suit anyway. Then he came out and fake modeled it.
For the rest of the day, the kids laughed and repeated what I had said. It was the ongoing joke of our weekend: Old and saggy, old and saggy. Until it hit me: my boys look just like their dad. They identify with him. They look up to him. And I just put him down in front of them.
Later that night, I sent a group text to all my men, the youngest and the oldest, and I apologized. Then I reminded my boys why their dad, for all his age and imperfections, is the only man for me.
He’s the kind of man who set his alarm clock and brought our babies to me when it was time to nurse. He washed bottles, changed diapers and rocked each of our boys back to sleep.
He’s the kind of man who has never had a new car of his own, who buys me the new one and then does what he calls the “new car rotation.” In other words, he takes my old one and puts an air freshener in it.
He’s the kind of man who, even when he’s tired, goes outside to play basketball or baseball with his sons.
He has sacrificed jobs and his own comfort to give us everything we want. He drives home from another state just to watch a Little League game, and then he turns around and goes back to make it in time for work.
He’s the kind of dad who will be happy if his boys are smarter and happier than he has ever been.
He’s the kind of husband who would never ever say anything about my weight or my age.
But mostly, he’s the kind of person who doesn’t take himself so seriously that he can’t put on too-small swim trunks and fake model them at the lake — just so that he can swim with his boys.
When I was done with my public love letter, I looked at my boys expectantly. I figured I had just changed their lives or blown their minds. But, no, they looked stunned and embarrassed.
And then they just said, “Um, awwwwkward.”
— Sarah Smiley is a Navy wife and syndicated columnist with ties to the Seattle area. Contact her at sarah email@example.com.