Dads, watch your wives today.
You won't find the magic of Mother's Day inside a Hallmark card. No, it's in the sweet moments that happen right under your nose.
I never tire of seeing my wife with our two young boys. Sometimes, she and our 6-year-old son garden together. I watch them out the kitchen window. The boy, his hands heavy with soggy work gloves, waits by a wheelbarrow for Mommy's next instructions.
"Give those ferns some water," I imagine her saying as she hands off the garden hose and points him to the next flower bed.
This goes on for hours.
In my mind's eye, I see my own mother -- now dead -- weeding her peonies, which were lovingly handed down from her mother, my grandmother, "Munner."
At soccer games with my older son, I watch my wife exhort him with an intensity that reminds me she is a farm-raised daughter of the South.
"Way to be tough," she'll bark out. "Play hard and keep your head up."
A few weeks ago, he asked her to tone it down a little. "I can hear you over everybody, Mom," he complained.
"That's because I'm your Momma," she said, giving no ground. "You're supposed to hear me."
Have you noticed that moms and dads have different approaches to parenting?
I have two volumes: soft and loud. For example, the first time I ask the boys to brush their teeth in the mornings, it sounds measured, almost genteel.
"Guys, please make sure you have your teeth brushed when I get out of the shower so we won't be late for school, OK?" I'll say.
If they comply, fine. If they don't, I'll whistle so loudly it rattles plates in the cupboard, or I'll clap so hard my hands hurt. Shock and awe, that's what dads do.
My wife, a first-grade teacher, has a way of making her request with enough firmness the first time that it leaves no room for negotiation. Her commands are fast and efficient with a little guilt sewn in.
"Boys, brush your teeth," she'll say. "Why do I have to tell you?"
Mothers also have a sixth sense about when to press and when to relax.
A good example: My 6-year-old has battled a couple of challenges in the past month, two badly skinned knees and a loose front tooth that dangles like it's being held in place by opposing magnets.
"I don't want to be strangle-toothed," he says forlornly.
When it comes time to tend the skinned knees, my wife breaks out a pump bottle of hydrogen peroxide and takes no excuses. Battling infections is non-negotiable.
The tooth she lets slide; although she holds the world's record for pulling ready-to-drop teeth. (Her schoolchildren trust her in a way they don't their own parents.)
See, as a dad, I'd forget the scabby knees and focus on that dangling tooth, which is driving me crazy. If it doesn't fall out by Father's Day, that's what I want as a gift: 10 seconds with that incisor.
Is it any wonder that children go to their moms first when they're hurt or scared? The tender mysteries of motherhood are ancient and deep -- yet so commonplace that they become nearly invisible.
We lift thanks today for our mothers. For backyard flowers and tended knees and those musical voices -- filled with love -- that ever exhort us in the game of life to be tough and to keep our heads up.
Contact Mark Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.
Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...