James Breakwell: Our Love is Like a Tea Kettle Left on the Burner All Morning — Hot, and Not My Fault

"With four kids and two pet pigs and one husband who may or may not be qualified to make gelatin-based desserts, some level of chaos is inevitable.:

by James Breakwell
Originally Published: 
An illustration of a tea kettle as well as two cups and a letter on the table
Jonathan Muroya for Fatherly

Love letters are wasted on youth. No matter what artistry and passion go into the prose you once laid out for your lover, the letters lack, well, life experience. When you devote yourself to someone, partner with them, and have a child together, then you have something to write about. Before, you were stumbling in passion. Now, you’ve truly found love. In Found Love, we celebrate the unique love partners feel for the mother of their children.

To my loving wife,

Do you remember that time I forgot a tea kettle on a hot burner all morning and it melted to the stove top? I bet you do. That’s not the kind of thing one easily forgets. Also, it happened literally five minutes ago.

We might need a new stove.

The worst part is I don’t even like tea. I was just boiling water to make some Jell-O.

You reacted with poise and grace when I called you at work to tell you what happened. It helped that your coworkers were around. After 18 years together, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to deliver bad news. But I suspect you would have reacted just as calmly if I told you at home when we were alone.

You’ve learned to expect the unexpected, although, if you always expect it, I guess what you’re really expecting is the predictable. With four kids and two pet pigs and one husband who may or may not be qualified to make gelatin-based desserts, some level of chaos is inevitable. That’s what you signed up for when you married me. It was right there in our wedding vows.

Okay, maybe not explicitly, but you could read between the lines. The four-kids-two-pigs-one-melted-tea-kettle thing was assumed.

Not that I ruin a lot of tea kettles. We’ve been together since we were both eighteen, and in all the years from then until now, I’ve only melted one.

That it happened right before I wrote this love letter to you is an amazing coincidence.

I definitely didn’t decide to write it now specifically to get back on your good side. In fact, I only forgot the tea kettle in the first place because I was thinking so hard about what to write in this letter.

How’s this: My love for you transcends time and space and that whistling sound a boiling tea kettle makes, which I can apparently tune out for four straight hours.

I blame the kids. Hanging out with them is like being at a rock concert with the volume turned up to 11, and that’s when they use their inside voices. It’s amazing I can still hear at all.

But this letter isn’t about who’s to blame for the melted tea kettle (not me); it’s about how much I appreciate you. We’ve built a great life together. In fact, we’ve built actual people. Four of them. We didn’t have to take a class or get a certification or anything. We just decided we wanted other human beings to exist and, poof, they did.

Okay, maybe it was a bit more work than that — for you. For me, the “poof” part was pretty accurate. But you carried each one of those children inside you for 40 weeks, and then, through a process that both amazes and horrifies me, got them outside of you without breaking a sweat. You didn’t even use any four-letter words.

No wonder you didn’t freak out about the stove.

Even after almost two decades together, you continue to impress me with how brave and resilient and funny you are. And forgiving. Let’s really put the emphasis on that one. I’m grateful every day that you’re in my life. Especially on the days that smell like burning. Happy Mother’s Day.


Your husband

P.S. I ordered you a new tea kettle. Maybe I can find a matching stove.

James Breakwell is the father of four girls and author of several comedic books on parenting, including How to Save Your Child from Ostrich Attacks, Accidental Time Travel, and Anything Else that Might Happen on an Average Tuesday and the forthcoming How to Be a Man (Whatever That Means): Lessons in Modern Masculinity from a Questionable Source. He’s best known for his comedy Twitter account XplodingUnicorn.

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