Friday, June 19, 2015

Ode to Chup

This is Christopher Erin Kendrick:

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I am his wife: photo 20150604_7901_zpsdjd91vfd.jpg
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These are our children: photo 20150604_7734_zpsptgnhmdu.jpg

And because Sunday is Father's Day we want to salute him:

I had anticipated a life of domesticity and tradition--Chup would head to work each morning with a kiss and a hug from the ranks of our posterity, and from me. I would spend the day corralling and cleaning up after babies who morph into children and teenagers. The lines were so clear for me growing up. I married my husband pledging to procreate for the benefit of our future.
But five years of infertility curtailed our plans and our relationship was greatly shaped by our empty nest. I realized I had some aspirations that I didn't suspect--namely writing and I was somewhat surprised to see that my husband was excited by my output.
By the time our bodies had somehow worked out a fertile solution (it just took practice?) we had a solid understanding that Chup wasn't intent on necessarily following cultural expectations of marriage. Instead, I felt he was willing to try new ways of living for the sake of our development.
After a few attempts to trust him, we finally worked out a system where he would work part of the time and stay home with the children part of the time. I worried incessantly that it would drive him crazy to be at home. I worried for everyone involved. I just didn't have an open enough mind to believe that men could care for the home and hearth with happiness and patience.
I am sorry for my ignorance. Men are capable of nurturing with the best of women.
Chup has become more than just a figure who passes in and out of our home on his way to and from work. He is integral in our patterns and schedules. He shuttles the children to day camps and doctors appointments. He's the designated family medic and medicine man. The baby calls for him from her crib every morning for a routine snuggle in the crook of his arms. He seeks out the one who cries in the night with a flashlight next to his bed and sympathy in his heart. On the days I go to work I kiss him goodbye knowing my children will be cared for with earnest intent for the entire day. This is an incredible privilege I know, one I try very hard not to take for granted.
His dedication to my happiness is phenomenal. He makes space in our family for me to be me-he fiercely guards my creative and quiet time. He encourages me to take care of myself. He realizes my endeavors--from writing and work, to community involvement and the slight sociality I have in me--make me a better wife and mother and he defends the time I need for it all.
Our life here in our mid-century modern home on the east bench isn't all rose-colored and perfect. Chup and I pretty much constantly discuss all the ways we fall short as parents. Our lifestyle is constantly in flux according to our jobs and money-making opportunities.  We yell sometimes on the fourth reminder to "pick up your shoes" or "stop making your sister cry" or "why is the toilet overflowing?!" and we've been known to go hiding up in our room for a ten minute lock of the door and regrouping. Our mantra is: this work is harder than we thought it would be.
But at night when the children are sleeping and the fans are blowing the hot air off their crumpled bodies, we meet on the couch downstairs for Netflix and maybe some sort of chocolate decision. He usually rubs my back while I knead his feet and we sign up for a full check out. Together. Sometimes we fall asleep side by side and usually he's the first to wake up and softly encourage us both to get into our proper bed.
And when the sun pops up over Y Mountain into our bedroom we start again--the baby with her bedhead of blonde curls leaps to Chup's side and Anson declares his early insistence on breakfast. We brace ourselves for another day of work meetings and messes, diapers and dinner, frustration and reconciliation.
What I suspected in my youth about marriage and parenthood has been greatly improved. I've found a system of beneficial consequences, made possible because I married a man who cares not only for our family but for each of us individually. And he cares deeply and long. This life is made possible by his hard work and devotion to our safety, comfort and opportunity.
We are the luckiest.
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Photos by Justin Hackworth