Anything I Can Do, We Can Do Better
Remember Annie Get Your Gun? Sharpshooter Annie Oakley has a confusing relationship with her love interest and rival, Frank Butler. She loved him but refused to play second fiddle to him when it came to hitting the bullseye. She was a woman in a man’s venue, and her theme song was Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better.
Unfortunately, that mindset plagues many relationships. Sometimes we are so busy defending our position, displaying our strengths, and protecting our voices, we lose sight of the target: working together with men to create loving and supportive family relationships. A wise woman helped me understand this.
Early in our marriage, my husband Clyde and I were visiting his brother and sister-in-law. I was cleverly explaining how hard I worked and how valuable my contributions were to his education, comfort, and well-being. I also noted how easy he had it to just be a student. I went on to humorously generalize about how hard women work and all that is expected of them and the world’s unfairness in overlooking all they do, while giving men all the perks and power. I have never forgotten my sister-in-law’s quiet reply: “That’s interesting. We often talk about how grateful we are for our roles as husband and wife, as father and mother. We both agree we love the roles and responsibilities we are blessed to fulfill and wouldn’t have it any other way.” Her gentle words pierced my heart. What she spoke was exactly what I really felt. I had simply been taken in by the world’s view of husbands and wives and fathers and mothers. It was a great lesson to me to avoid publicly demeaning Clyde, even in jest. I must keep reviewing that lesson.
We learned through time and experience that there were things I could do better, things he could do better, and tasks each of us hated or relished. I’m more creative, he is more methodical and organized. We turned that knowledge to our advantage when we divided up the work of living and raising a family. The best results—more than twice as good—were achieved when we worked as a team.
I married him because he demonstrated his intention to use persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, kindness, and love unfeigned. Those same qualities transferred to his role as a father.
For years he rode the bus to work to free up a car for the teens to take to school and activities. He helped coach soccer teams (although not an athlete himself), attended recitals, school programs, and plays. Most of all, he used his great capacity to love and worry to keep our children in our thoughts and prayers. They loved his famous chocolate malts, one-on-one dates, dad jokes, and family naps—his first choice when he got to choose an activity. Our sons and daughters benefitted from having a dad who loved them and also fiercely loved their mother.
I appreciated his devotion and active fathering because my parents divorced when I was in junior high and my dad moved away. Even though my dad and I still loved each other, I knew Clyde’s being right there in plain sight would bless our children. Was he perfect? Of course not. But he was and is perfect for us. Our children may doubt his methods and madness, but they know, nothing doubting, that their dad loves them and would do nearly anything in his power to help them have the best things in life. Those best things are often purchased with a currency spelled T-I-M-E.
As we celebrate fathers this month, take time to thank your own father and other men who have loved, guided, and protected you through life. Make sure the father of your children knows he is valued, and that together, you can do everything better.