It Takes A Village

by Patrick Appel

Mark Oppenheimer reflects on the aspects of parenting he outsources to others:

Parenting has made me painfully aware of all the skills I don’t have, all that I won’t be able to pass on to my children. Before the children arrived, the future was full of possibilities for the dad I would be: the one who would teach them to play guitar, to garden, to turn table legs with a lathe. All I had to do was learn how to play guitar, to garden, and to turn table legs with a lathe. Also to chant Torah, change the oil, and throw a football with a perfect spiral. And there was plenty of time for all of that.

But then the girls arrived, in short order, all three of them. I found skills I never knew I had, like holding an infant on my forearm, her head in my palm. I once changed a cloth diaper so deftly that my friend Derek was startled to realize it was cloth. “You did that just like a regular diaper!” he said. That was one of my proudest moments. I’ve been known to take all three girls—ages two, four, and six—to the supermarket together, pilfering only one banana and one plastic carton of blackberries to keep them in line. (Shamed by the empty carton and the empty peel, I paid up.) But for all the skills I never expected I’d have, there are more that I know I’ll never acquire.