By CB Droege.

My son doesn’t always make a clear distinction between my wife and I. Sometimes he calls me “mommy”. Sometimes he calls her “daddy”. More often, calls either or both of us “Mommadaddy”, as if it is a single title for a single entity. I know that this is an artifact of his age, and that he will someday grow out of it. I can’t help but wonder when he will begin to make the distinction between us. Will we see it? Will we notice from one moment to the next when our son realizes that mommy and daddy are distinct individuals with their own opinions, feelings, and practices?

I was probably four or five when my parents ceased being one entity. While I don’t remember the exact day, I do remember clearly the exact moment when it happened. It was a bolt of lightning in my brain, searing these few moments into place.

I’m sure it wasn’t the first time they disagreed in front of me, though it was important to my parents to do that as little as possible. I’d even seen them argue previous to these moments, but it was this specific incident which forever separated them.

It was time for me to start brushing my teeth by myself. Many nights before, mom had brushed my teeth for me, and many night dad had done it, and never had I noticed a difference. To brush my own teeth, I needed to know how to put the toothpaste on the brush, the first part of the lesson. My father was showing me. My mother was watching from my other side. “Like this,” he said, turning on the water to wet the brush, “Put the brush at the end of the toothpaste tube, and squeeze the tube just a little bit.” I watched him carry this out.

“What?” My mother said. “That’s disgusting. Do you always do that?”

My father turned, surprised, toward my mother, “Well, yeah.”

“That’s so unsanitary! Yuk.” She screwed up her face.

“Unsanitary?” He said, indignant, his usual response to unexpected criticism, “I’m just putting toothpaste on a brush!”

“No…” She took the brush and paste from my father and rinsed the brush under the still-running water. “Like this…” She squeezed a bit of paste from the tube, and applied it to the bristles with a swipe. It looked just like the way people did it on toothpaste commercials “Then the brush doesn’t touch the tube at all.”

My father raised an eyebrow, “That’s so wasteful. Do you always use that much?”

“It’s just toothpaste,” she said before putting the brush in my hand and walking away, leaving my dad to finish the remainder of the lesson alone.

My parents were never the same after that.


CB DROEGE is an award winning fantasy author and poet living in Munich. His latest book, RapUnsEl and Other Stories was released June 2015. Learn more at manawaker.com 

Photo by Nick Harris.

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