"Who did that big poo poo? Was it an elephant? A bear? No, it was you! You did that big poo poo!" and I could imagine the vivid, disbelieving horror on the face of his 19 year old self if time-travel would have permitted him to witness the incident.
He is a wonderful father and I'm very proud of him. Very happy also that both my son and my daughter get to be nurtured by someone who is such a positive example of how men can be. Z loves being a father, especially now that parenting is half the work it was when there were neonates around. He is terrifically proud of both of his children, so much so that he glows with a quiet accomplishment as he watches them rampage around the world, his every pore radiating pleasure that they are like him.
"Look how strong and agile they are!" he says to me with wonderment as our children yet again attempt to circumnavigate the living room without touching the ground, using the complex walkways of armchairs and coffee tables and sofa backs. "Look at how curious, how clever, how dynamic!" He is equally proud of Matei's kindness and Helena's ferlessness and I hope they will always have someone who cherishes them as much as he does. And although I've never met him, I feel a profound gratitude for Z's father who was so loving and devoted to his own children and helped create a story of men who love being with and caring for their children despite the fact that his own father had not been that.
Z is truthful and strong and funny and kind. He is utterly, utterly likeable. I have got used to playing second-fiddle, to being the person in the background who does much of the work for less of the overt credit. We live in a gendered world. People find it extraordinary and praiseworthy that he does so much of the childcare, while all my cleaning and folding laundry and sorting out of permission slips and uniforms and birthday cards is seen as normal and not remarked upon. It's the sister of the phenomenon in which a single father in a playgroup is touted as the posterchild of sexy, philantropic bravery while the single mother is considered a lazy slag.
As the less-exciting half of my relationship, I often feel invisible and even though what I offer is invaluable it's not often valued by others. Sometimes it's taken for granted by Z himself, in which case arch commentary follows on the subject of whether he imagines it was the sock fairy that picked up the discarded offerings he left on the floor or whether his clothes managed to iron themselves before leaping into the cupboard.
"You're a good father," I told Z this morning while Matei, the judicious supporter of underdogs piped in with "And you're a good mother" and gave me a kiss.