Being a father, my friends, is exactly like eating a chicken.
Kimberly has taken to roasting two chickens most Sundays, what with accounting for our five kids and their appetites, which are like their father's. We have a couple of kids on the cusp on teenagehood, and they eat plenty, but even our two-year-olds eat like jackals at a scavengers' convention.
Today she roasted one bird, as was our custom of old. And as we went through the ritual of carving it and parceling it out, I had some fatherly thoughts that I'm now going to share with you.
The chicken was her salt-crusted roast chicken, which, my friends, is a lot like Kimberly. That is to say, it is juicy and amazing. And also a little more complicated to deal with than your average chicken. But mostly its' amazing.
Wifey, of course, gets first choice as I carve, even as all the little jackals yell out which pieces they want. I listen to their pleas, but I do not allow them to dictate terms. I'm the father, after all. Mother gets an entire breast with salt-encrusted skin, which comes off looking like half the chicken. The children exclaim and wifey gives a small smile. The eldest, a girl, declares that she'd like some dark meat. With a twist I break off a thigh and drumstick together. She must be big and strong, and also I'm rewarding her for her love of dark meat. The oldest boy will be served last, but I will try to protect his interests as the two younger boys demand their propers. Before the carving began I discouraged them from asking for drumsticks yet again. One of them calls for breast, so I carve one half of the remaining breast for each of them, and add a wing to each plate. I begin to tear shreds off the breastbone to create a pile for baby girl, and to supplement the boys' portions. Finally, I break off the last thigh and drumstick for the elder boy. All are generously served, each according to his kind. I sit.
And if you've been paying attention, you will notice that none of the chicken is left. There are no pieces to be cut, only a torn carcass.
What a good dad I am.
Okay, I just had to say that. Because this post won't be any fun without acknowledging the humblebrag aspects of this. But truly I tell you, I had a thought I thought worth sharing, and this is how I must get to it. These are true events from the glorious battlefields of parenthood.
All right, so the point is not what a good dad I am. The point is what I was left with.
The leavings of the Sunday chickens have become a prerogative of my office. Now, I confess to being a little shocked to be following my usual routine but ending up without a tasty thigh for my own delectation. This is because as soon as the kids started eating all the chicken a couple of years ago, Kimberly upgraded us to a two-Sunday-chicken family. I love having the carcass to myself, but am accustomed to a little more.
I mentioned to wifey earlier this week that I missed her salt-encrusted chicken, and she revealed that she'd taken it off the menu when she began roasting two birds. The recipe calls for covering while roasting, and she doesn't have the cookware to prepare two at the same time.
She cooked me one today, because I missed it, but it was just one.
So I had only the carcass. Most Sundays, after eating whatever pieces I reserve for myself, I throw a carcass on my plate and pick off the back meat. The other carcass is picked by the children for a weekday dish. The bones from both chickens go to broth.
I admit I felt a flash of regret that I hadn't given less to one of the kids. But then I remembered how much I love the carcass. It's plenty of meat, and dark meat at that. I love to pick at it as my fingers get greasier and greasier. I love deciding whether or not to share the oysters with one of the kids, or to gloatingly pick them out and eat them loudly in front of my fat seed and plump wife. It's a ritual we have. My youngest boy sits on my left and he always tries to pick at them with me, and depending on my mood, I may or may not allow it. I am king of the carcass, after all. It's my thing.
Reflecting on my dismay at finding myself without a juicy thigh, I thought, "This is a perfect illustration of what fatherhood is like, and I'm totally going to blog about it."
Our work as fathers is to bless our children with joy and plenty as much as is possible and wise. We are to serve to the point of death. This is the tiny lesson I teach my boys by serving them last, eldest last of all. The strange thing is that if it's done with joy, the fruits of that sacrifice become a joy in themselves. And I'm not just talking about the joy of watching your child decide that the thigh is indeed the best piece, as their father told them. I'm talking about the joy of what you're left with. All those little pieces of dark meat on the back of the carcass that must be picked out by hand are so. very. delicious. There are lots of little bits of fatherhood you only discover when you give everything away.
And don't think that gratitude is necessarily going to be one of the fatherly fruits you gather. As I picked on tonight's carcass my eldest had the audacity to ask me to eat less, as she was looking forward to the chicken noodle soup it would yield later.
Needless to say, this was my reaction to that bit of sass.
I will close by mentioning that I had my wife read a draft of this, and she had no idea this had happened. Which we'll chalk up as another success. It truly is more delicious when no one notices. Dads, keep on dadding. The peace of Christ be upon you.