This Memorial Day weekend, we stopped by Terhune Orchards in central Jersey, because what could honor our troops more than apple cider slushies, u-pick strawberry fields, and a fleet of broken-down toy tractors?
All of that entertainment was secondary, however, to the little farm section of the orchards, where goats and geese and (sometimes) a horse hang out behind a wire fence and are fed handfuls of corn by city slickers.
Just as in the city, the weirdest creatures on the farm were the married couples. I got a few minutes, while my kids ran feral, to just sit and watch the adults interact, and in ten minutes or so, I lost a bit of hope for parents, and in particular for fathers.
Judging by that admittedly small sample size, it would seem that the Fathers are a race of idiots, constantly needing minding and reminding from their overlords, the Mothers. Yes, the dads seemed a little mopey and disconnected, but hardly warranting the acrid micromanagement they seemed to be getting. A few of the choicer interactions:
1) One dad, accompanying his preschool-age daughter on a mission to feed a goose, was told by the mom, no less than three times, some variant on “geese bite!” and “watch her fingers!”
2) When that daughter turned her attention to the cat, the mom called after both of them, “Don’t let her touch its poo-hole!” (?!)
3) Another mom made some sort of bobbing motion with her head, like a rooster, as she chided her husband about their son, who had just finished touching a goat-snout: “Make sure he washes his hands. Good this time.”
4) A second mom said under her breath to her husband, apropos of nothing that I could see: “Don’t you mess with me, Brian.” A threat which received no reply, just shrug of the shoulders and a meek smile.
Now, I’m sure my significant and I have our own verklempt little tussles, but lord knows I can’t complain, not after seeing all that foolishness. And men (myself included) are certainly not blameless in the war of the sexes. Far from it. But there was something in the public meekness of those men that I think a lot of dads have experienced at one time or the other. It’s a kind of a survival gesture, an attempt to defer and flatter your mate until the danger passes.
There’s an analogy from nature here, but it’s got nothing to do with goats or gander: Being a father is sometimes more like being a hiker perpetually caught between a mama bear and her cub. Except that when a mama bear charges in the wild, you’re supposed to stand your ground. When the mother of your children attacks, I wouldn’t recommend it.