My husband, Dave, is a mother hen. Well, perhaps he would prefer the term father rooster. In any case, he and I have very different ways of managing parenting stress.

When it comes to worrying about the every day stuff — the stuff that is typically attributed to the list of “mom” worries, Dave does enough of it for both of us. He worries about the kids’ rooms being cluttered, about whether or not we need to reapply sun block after they’ve been on the slip & slide for 30 minutes because it’s probably rubbed off, about whether or not to let them go over to a friend’s house…you get the idea.

I often dismiss his worries with a “kids are resilient” kind of attitude, confident that the little stuff is just – little stuff.

Last month our son Kyle, who has Down syndrome, had to have major spine surgery. From the moment the results of the MRI came back and showed that severe compression of his spine was causing neurological damage that was rapidly affecting his motor skills, getting worse every day, and would kill him if we did nothing to the minute he came home from the hospital, I was a nervous wreck.

The surgery was necessary – without it he would have died – but it also came with a 100% complication rate because of Kyle’s challenges, the risk for infection, and the complex nature of the surgery.

Dave, who worries about the tiniest scratch on one of the kids getting infected without liberal application of antibiotic ointment, was able to face this enormous and daunting challenge with strength and confidence. He was completely at peace with the decision to have the surgery, completely confident that Kyle’s outcome would be positive.

I played the “what-if” game in my head every night, losing more and more sleep during the six weeks leading up to the surgery. Dave maintained a level of calm that probably kept me from going insane, reassuring me and comforting me when I felt like I could not handle what was coming.

Kyle came through the surgery better than I think even his surgeon expected. He is healing well, and though we are not out of the woods yet as far as complications go, we’re making daily progress.

Dave, now that the worst is over, is back to his worrying ways. He stresses about the smallest things. Kyle’s appetite has changed (yours would too if you’d had a breathing tube down your throat for two days and had to wear a neck brace that made it difficult to swallow). Kyle isn’t talking as much and often seems sad or withdrawn (it’s been in the 90s here and he’s not been allowed to do more than sponge bathe and cannot remove the neck brace at all). Kyle seems to be more tired than usual…

I reassure Dave that things are fine. I dismiss his worries with the same teasing remarks I always have. But deep down, I’m so grateful. When it counts – when it’s really the big stuff, when it’s life and death, Dave has enough strength for both of us.

He can “father rooster” all he wants the rest of the time.