10 holiday help(h)er tips for husbands and dads

Maybe I’m alone, but I find it impossible to believe we’re staring the holidays right in the face. How did this happen? Looking at my November and December calendars has me feeling like a reindeer in the headlights.

Yesterday I was taking my kids to the pool, fixing a flat tire on my go-kart and taking out a loan to treat my family to popcorn, Milk Duds and another animated blockbuster with talking reptiles.

Then, all of a sudden, it’s time to bundle up for school choir concerts, office parties and church potlucks. Or, as I like to call them, pot-not-so-luckies.

Fight as I might, it is indisputable that Christmas will come, the calendar will turn to 2011, and I will ask each of these questions: “What time is that dinner again? Is there leftover fudge? Hey, who hid my favorite tie, the one that plays ‘Jungle Bell Rock’ when you squeeze Rudolph’s nose?”

Also indisputable is how strongly this time of year reminds me, yet again, that my wife is a remarkable woman. Somehow she keeps the heads attached to four children running 40 mph in four different directions, a 90-pound hyperactive Golden Doodle who thinks he’s a lapdog and a husband who’s on the road more than in his own driveway during the mayhem of the holiday season.

How wives and mothers juggle the rides, the schedules, the meetings, the dinners, more rides, the baking and the plastic recorder concerts, all while working part time for Santa, is a mystery beyond my intellect. Then again, aren’t they all?

With all this in mind, a few nights ago with the kids already tucked in bed, I asked my wife if there were things I could do to lessen her burden during this crazy time of year. She removed her jaw from the kitchen floor, reattached it and smiled.

“I’m serious,” I insisted. “I can bake cookies, make a cotton ball reindeer nose, hand-stitch a hot pad, whatever you need.”

She kept smiling, told me she loved me and said the most helpful thing I could do in that very moment wasn’t nearly that exciting.

“Could you take out the trash?”

That was the beginning of a conversation that allowed my eyes to see in a way they haven’t in an awfully long time. What she and other wives and mothers need most during the hectic times is help with the little things that don’t come and go with the seasons.

Feeling enlightened, I poured myself a glass of cold milk, took four cookies from the Ziploc bag marked “For lunches only” and made a list of the things I don’t always think to do but that would help my wife survive the holidays.

Husbands and dads, I have a hunch this list might help you, too.

1. Make the bed.
No, it’s not my favorite thing to do. But it takes 60 seconds, and she smiles every single time I do it.

2. Do the dishes.
See #1. Often the kids help, but wouldn’t Mom think I was Superman of the Suds if I sent the kids to read or practice piano after dinner tonight and I did the dishes myself?

3. Put your clothes in the hamper.
Trust me, men. I’ve tested the theory that if they’re dirty enough they’ll walk in the hamper themselves. They won’t.

4. Close the toilet seat.
It’s always a better day for your loved ones if they don’t fall in.

5. Practice “No Trace” driving.
Sometimes when I’m being helpful playing chauffeur, I prefer to drive wife’s car instead of my own, but I rarely leave it as I found it. Sure, I bought the gang fast food and now there’s an entire potato farm worth of fries on the floor, but why is that her job to clean up?

6. Feed the cat, dog, bird, dragon.
Our dog, Pilgrim, is supposed to be fed by the kids. But when they forget, which happens from time to time, is it Mom or Dad who picks up the slack and the Alpo? Too often, in my home anyway, it’s Mom.

7. Answer the phone.
How many times is Mom knee-deep in dinner or laundry when the phone rings and somehow, magically, no one hears it but her?

8. Call her during the day for no reason at all.
Nothing brings a smile to a wife quite like a husband calling to say, “Hello.” No agenda, no errands to punt back to her, just a quick “You matter to me.”

9. Kiss her goodbye.
No matter how late you are or how vital that meeting is, it’s never more important than a sweet and simple reminder that your sweetheart is still No. 1 in your life.

10. Tell her you love her.
How long does it take? Three seconds. Try it. The words and the benefits will last a lifetime.

With my list complete, the milk gone and cookie crumbs punctuating my list, I was eager to get right to work. What did I do first? I tossed the empty bag and wondered to myself, is anyone ever going to empty the trash?

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