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Motherhood.  Its not a job for the faint of heart.  And you mothers that read this newsletter are in the toughest part of the toughest job.  The early years are simply brutal.  Day by day, you are struggling to pull it all together against formidable challenges.  Luckily, most of you have a co-pilot to help share the load.  And, as it turns out, it is that time of year when the world, led by Hallmark, turns it gaze of appreciation toward the co-pilot and makes him the guest of honor on that copycat of holidays, Father’s day.

I know what you are thinking.  Does your guy actually deserve a holiday? After all, he’s just the co-pilot.  You do all the work.  You are the pilot of the parenting plane.  You decide where the plane is going.  You go through the pre-flight checklist.  You make sure the baggage is loaded (he may move it but you pack it!).  You ensure that there is food on board, the trays are stowed, and the seats are upright and in the locked position.  And then you fly the whole shebang to the destination and touch down safely.  Notwithstanding a few crabby passengers, yours is one impressive operation.

But what the heck does a co-pilot do?  He’s often grumpy and grouchy, making the flight less pleasant.  He slouches about in that other seat while you are doing the flying.  He just stares (sometimes vacantly) while you perform complicated piloting tasks. Sometimes he tries to anticipate what buttons you are about to press by pressing buttons himself (always annoying).   Sometimes he drawls on over the intercom but his message is not on point and there is information lacking that the passengers need.

God knows, you certainly don’t completely trust him to fly the plane by himself.  And when you do let him fly, it scares the bejeezus out of you.  So why the heck do you have to help the kids honor him with breakfast in bed (and lets face it, you have to make it yourself because the kids are too young to contribute)?

Well, I understand your pain, mothers.  I really do.  Its tough being the pilot, the head honcho, the person in charge.  You have to organize everything.  And, because you organized it, you are the only person that has a whole plan in your head.     If you schedule your flight to land between stops and you miscalculate, the plane will poop its pants (okay, metaphor breaking down).  So you have to think of everything, including having to create a list of things for the co-pilot to do.   It’s almost as if…as if…that darn co-pilot is just another passenger for you to take care of!

But mothers, I encourage you to take a second look at your co-pilots.  There’s more here than meets the eye.  The first thing you have to remember is that your co-pilot doesn’t have the right equipment to fly these model of planes; not the baby plane and probably not for the toddler plane either.  For starters, he was never capable of rolling a plane off the assembly line like you (though he did provide some key design assistance early in the process).  And the co-pilot definitely can’t make the jet juice.   Oh, he has the nozzles for jet juice.  And if he makes the mistake of being shirtless at the wrong time, the flight crew may attempt to latch on.  But that only leads to pain for the co-pilot and no jet juice for the plane. So in many aspects of airplane piloting, your co-pilot is ill-equipped.  And he knows it.

The second thing to understand is what that blank stare you sometimes get from your co-pilot means.  It’s not laziness or stupidity.  You see, telepathy still hasn’t been perfected among the co-pilot class.  And though you, as a pilot, know the flight schedule in excruciating detail, your co-pilot doesn’t.  And there is often no way for the co-pilot to divine your plan.  So the co-pilot is left in a perpetual state of unknowing.  He has to guess where the plane is going AND guess his responsibilities on that flight.   Sometimes he can guess well and is able to fully participate.  Sometimes, he has no idea what you are doing and stares at you blankly.   He knows he looks dumb when he’s staring at you this way.  But he has no choice.  If he doesn’t watch you, looking for clues, he’ll never figure it out.

The third thing that you must remember about your co-pilot is that he IS trying to help you fly the plane.  Contrary to what you might think, he truly is.   This then explains another annoying co-pilot-ism—his desire to push all your buttons.  Your co-pilot is trying to make himself useful by helping you with the controls.  The problem, of course, is that airplanes have a crap load of buttons.  So the odds are good that he’s going to press the wrong one.  And, as per point two above, he doesn’t know exactly what you are trying to do so that increases his chances of doing the wrong thing.

The fourth and most important thing to recognize—and this goes to his attitude—is that your co-pilot didn’t sign up for the co-pilot job.  He never wanted to sit in the right-hand seat and watch as you do all the flying.  He wanted to be a pilot!  He wanted to gas up that plane, zoom into the stratosphere, do loop-de-loops, barrel roll and barnstorm his way to parenting greatness.  But in these early years, that is simply not possible.  So remember that your co-pilot is a frustrated wanna-be pilot.  He has to just sit there and watch you fly.  That may explain his grumpiness, grouchiness and sometimes his slouchiness.  As for the drawling commentary while you fly, that’s just his way of exorcizing his insecurities.

So I hope that you now see that your poor co-pilot isn’t such a bad fellow.   He’s stuck in the unenviable role of being second in command.  He doesn’t get to see the big picture.  He’s forced to guess and infer his role.  And he’s not perfectly equipped for the task at hand to begin with.  But to his credit, he hangs in there.  And though he may never say it, he’s in awe of your ability to keep everything in the air.

So however frustrated you become with your co-pilot, Pilot Mothers of Burlingame, I encourage you to ask yourself some important questions.  First, is there anybody else besides yourself you’d trust more to fly your family airplane than your co-pilot?  Second, have there been situations when your co-pilot has flown, perhaps for a weekend, and done well?    And third, how have you felt when you couldn’t fly the plane and had to watch?  Was co-piloting a comfortable job for you?

If this all helps you to find a greater appreciation for your co-pilot, I encourage you this Father’s Day to ‘help the kids’ fire up some hotcakes for him, or let him sleep in, or send him out to play golf.  Whatever your co-pilot enjoys.  And then, perhaps in the near future, after he is rested and recharged, offer to switch seats with him for a while and let him glide among the clouds.   Why not.  He’s the second most talented pilot at your airline.