A Mother’s Arms Are Made of Tenderness and Children Sleep Soundly in Them

hot, chocolate, coco, cocoaHeat, as an extreme, exists only in a relative sense. It is the hottest thing they have ever known and therefore it is the hottest thing that anyone has ever known. I tell them that it is not, that my coffee is actually hotter, but that does not soothe them, it only makes them question my sanity as they slowly dare a second sip of their lukewarm chocolate.


My back hurts. I have been carrying too much for too long. For six weeks I have been living as a single father—a single work-at-home-dad. It has been incredibly hard and surprisingly easy. I am better for it and I am tired and I am badly beaten.

My work has suffered.  My 70 hour work week has been cut to less than forty—compiled from a series of minutes torn apart from neglected deadlines, tucked between goodnight kisses and the taste of warm whiskey across my lips. The clock moves slow and forward.

Chores once shared have become mine alone. All nights are long and lonely. All mornings are early and full of songs and frustration.

I do not believe that I have achieved anything worthy of praise or pity, only reflection. Others face obstacles far greater than mine on a daily basis. They make the most. They do their best. They are stronger than I ever thought I was, and when I sip from my glass the toast is to them.

But this is not their life, it is mine, and while I was prepared and up to the challenge, it was unexpected in both timing and time. From the frying pan to the fire is not a lateral move. The heat is extreme, and it is all relative.

Tomorrow my wife comes home after six weeks sitting at the bedside of her ailing father. Six weeks of tears and whispers and shouts in the night. Six weeks of walking in the shoes of a girl much smaller.

Bedside seats are lessons in love and fear, and the art of turning fond the old memories that weren’t. That is a chapter not yet closed. Those wounds are still open. He will still have a beside in need of sitting, and she will carry her thoughts accordingly. Her back will hurt.


They do not expect her. They have grown accustomed to the missing of their mother. Six weeks is a long time gone, and a father doing the best he can is still just one kiss goodnight no matter how much laughter fills the day or how much work is left to the forgotten.

Tomorrow will seem but another day to them, the routine of living with some parts missing. They will be safe and loved and slightly lost. She will be on a plane six weeks delayed and her dreams will be of little boy kisses grown wet with salt and the slightest linger of lukewarm chocolate.


The title of this post is a quote from Victor Hugo.

A version of this post first appeared on DadCentric in 2009 when Tricia’s father was still with us. He survived the fight outlined above and enjoyed his grandchildren for four more years.

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