I happened to be cleaning the bathrooms the other day and waiting for the third load of laundry to get done when I started to think about Renaissance men (don’t try to figure out why things run through my mind). The concept centers around the capacity of man being limitless for development. Leonardo. Imhotep. Newton. Galileo. These men and others during their time embraced the idea of the Renaissance man. Thinkers. Inventors. Pioneers of science, math, engineering, and astronomy. Everywhere you turned during those days, it seemed as though someone was painting a picture of the Last Supper while figuring out the circumference of the moon. But those days of Renaissance men are long gone. Today, the closest thing we’ve had to a modern Renaissance man might be Bo Jackson (a sad commentary on the state of humankind but Bo sure knew baseball and football). Sometime between the time fresco painting went out of style and the NFL started, men lost the desire for limitless development and instead opted for limitless contentment.
Growing up, my dad was in charge of scant few things. He was responsible for going to work, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow when necessary, and finding new ways to use duct tape. My mom worked, cooked (to be fair, my dad did cook for my sister and I once), cleaned, did the wash, ironed, ran my sister and I to doctor’s appointments, organized the calendar, paid the bills, took the dog out, and reminded us when we had to call one of our relatives to wish them a happy birthday. She did it all and excelled at it all. She understood her capacity in regards to her family were limitless for development. There wasn’t a need in our house for her to be an architect, alchemist, astronomer and mathematician (though she probably could have done that too). There was a need for her to be a worker, cook, cleaner, washer, ironer, chauffeur, organizer, accountant, and dog walker. She was a Renaissance mom.
My wife is very much a Renaissance mom too. Ironically, I was very much like my dad (limitless contention). My wife is good at all the things my mom was good at (well, maybe not the cooking so much in the beginning, but she’s gotten better). She cooks, cleans, does the wash, and all the other tedious, unglamorous but necessary work that keeps our home from becoming sedentary as Congress.
But times, as they say, change. People change. Spouses change. And sometimes spouses inch ever closer to completely losing their minds due to being overworked and waking you up by dumping a pitcher of cold water on your head while wielding a knife.
It was time for me to change (or sleep with one eye open).
Beyond the fights that would break out, I realized my need to change when I was pulling dishes out of the dishwasher as needed, like being in a hotel and pulling the clothing out of your suitcase instead of putting it in drawers. If that wasn’t a clear enough sign, Alicia would leave the clothes in the dryer to see how long it would take me to grasp that my sock drawer was empty. It was time to discover my limitless capacity to develop (or start sleeping on the sofa full-time).
I have figured out that in order to make this house and this family run on all cylinders, I need to pick up some of the slack (and the dirty clothing lying on the floor). So now I take on tasks my wife once tackled on her own. Most times I do these things without her having to ask me to do them (baby steps folks). I’m cleaning, cooking (in the loosest sense of that word), doing the wash, ironing, taking the kids to dentists, doctors, and practices. I clean a mean dining room floor and never forget to dust the baseboard. Alicia admits I fold the clothing better than she does and look no further if you need a crease in a pair of pants. I even ask my wife what needs to be done before she can say, “No, you sit there and watch TV, I’ll do everything.” (her way of asking me). I manage to do the dishes before they look like a grilled cheese encrusted Leaning Tower of Pisa.
For the foreseeable future, my wife is still the driving force in our house, or at least until I can figure out the equation used to figure out when the bed sheets need to be changed, but that has not stopped me from developing. I don’t do any of it for personal gain, accolades, or pats on the back, though a thorough house cleaning will get me 3 uninterrupted hours on a Sunday during football season. I do it because I want to embrace my limitless capacity for development as a man, a husband, and as a father. I do it because, even though I can’t build a pyramid or paint a masterpiece or discover a new element, I want to embrace what Leonardo, Imhotep, my mom, and my wife embraced. I want to embrace being a Renaissance dad.