FLINT - I'm a father, which is why I appreciate mothers. Personally, I'm glad I'm not one. Fathers have their strengths but mothers simply have it tougher than we do.
Mothers work harder at this parenting thing than fathers, first of all. Most fathers know it but we seldom admit it, me included. In fact, if the lovely yet formidable Marcia mentions seeing this, I will deny that I wrote it. ("Um, the editors must have stuck that in. Yeah, that's it. The editors.")
But it's true. Mothers are the ones who don't turn off their ears at night. Our youngest is 15. Even after all this time, if he or one of the other kids coughs in the night, Marcia is awake in an instant: "Did you hear that? I better go see what's wrong." Fathers can sleep through anything. Plus, we're really good at faking we're asleep even when we hear those night coughs.
Mothers are the menders of knees and the driers of tears. Fathers are more likely to say, "Aw, shake it off," especially if it's a boy knee, or launch into a long, boring story about how "That's not a scrape. Now when I was your age ..."
Mothers are the inventors and sole users of the miracle substance known as mommy spit. No father I know would lick his thumb then use it to smooth a child's hair or clean a smudge of peanut butter off his cheek. We'd say wipe it on your shirt.
Mothers have a much higher tolerance for the bodily fluids, secretions, eruptions and emanations of their children. Fathers are grateful for it, too. Really grateful.
Mothers have the magical ability to interpret baby sounds. Fathers think all sounds mean the kid's hungry. Or wet. Or ... something. Moms hear nuances: "No, that sound means the wind rustled the curtain and scared her. I'll go close it." Me: "You got all that from that?"
Mothers are more patient that fathers. They listen more, empathize more and better understand the stock market rise and fall of young hormones. Fathers, in general, get itchy faster with that kind of stuff.
Mothers somehow keep the entire family calendar in their head. "It's your Aunt Edna's birthday. Don't forget to sign the card I bought for you to send to her." Many fathers wouldn't remember their own birthday if their wives didn't remind them.
Mothers are the family nutritionist. Without them kids would eat nothing but pizza for lunch and dinner and cold leftover pizza for breakfast because that's all fathers would buy. That and maybe Mountain Dew. And doughnuts. And Skittles.
Mothers are the soothers of broken teenage female hearts. Fathers aren't. My daughter would rather listen to one of my stories about my youthful athletic exploits than listen to my advice on boys, and she positively hates stories about my youthful athletic exploits.
Mothers are the only reason kids have shoes that fit. Fathers tend to prefer the "close enough, now let's get the heck out of here" approach. Or maybe that's just me.
Mothers are also the reason kids get new clothes. Fathers are more likely to say, "Aw, he can get one more year out of those pants." Her: "I can see his shins!"
Mothers are the reason boys grow into decent human beings with actual feelings and stuff. They're also a big reason why girls grow into the wonderful people that will mother the next generation. Fathers, well, we're important, too, but not, in my opinion as important as a good mother.
That may seem to you like I'm sucking up a bit. What can I say - yes, I am. I've been blessed with a great mother. And I live with another great mother, and that one has the power to, um, make my life heaven or hell.
I prefer the heaven.
My mama didn't raise no dummy.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. Write to Andrew Heller at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.