Yesterday ended with these words, “Daddy, will you lay with me.”
And of course, I pushed aside the stuffed animals in my daughter’s bed, fluffed one of her several pillows, and then I lay down beside her. She tucked the blankets beneath her chin and snuggled her face into her pillow. She kissed my arm, which she curled into….and all was well.
I see this as a diminishing window of opportunity.
“Daddy, will you lay with me,” Used to be pronounced, “Will you lay wiff me.”
Supermarket was sukermarket and meatballs were pronounced neatballs.
The wheels on the bus no longer go round and round, and she has not sung Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star in several years. Television shows like Bear in the Big Blue House have become a memory to me. I used to sing the theme song to her—but her memory is not the same as mine.
I began to smile as I thought about how painfully cute she was (and still is).
Her timing was always incredible.
In the stage between divorce and a new marriage, I stood on line in a delicatessen. I was single and the seating area was filled with different women. At the time, my daughter was small enough that holding her was an easy chore.
I bounced her in my arms and she smiled. This attracted attention. I bounced her up and down and my daughter began to laugh, which was echoed by the word, “Awww,” from the nearby women and the young college girls behind the counter.
There was something to this, I thought. The girls behind the counter paid less attention to the sandwiches they were making and focused on me; a Dad with his little girl. It was great. In a time when I was alone there was attention.
I heard someone say, “He’s so sweet with her,” but I acted as if I did not hear them. No, instead, I continued to bounce my little girl in my arm.
Repositioning myself, I grabbed my daughter from the bottom, but while doing this, I paused in my bouncing.
She rocked herself, as if to say, “Keep going.”
I felt her diaper to see if it needed changing and she rocked herself again.
Trying to maintain the attention, I said, “Sorry kid, I just had to check your little tush.”
Then she stopped. Her expression went from happy to angry.
She responded, “I don’t have a little tushy!”
“Yes you do,” I told her.
“No I don’t!”
“You do too.”
The women sitting at the nearby tables were melting. The girls behind the counter stopped working and watched me, a Daddy with his little girl, bouncing up and down, and going back and forth.
My little girl insisted, “I do not have a little tushy!”
“Yes you do,” I told her.
“Oh yeah?” she asked.
“Well then YOU have a little penis!”
Very quickly, every woman that watched adoringly, and all of the girls behind the counter laughed at me and then they looked away. I laughed too, but then again, what else could I have done?
These memories I have; I will always have. Bear in the Big Blue House, special Daddy pizza nights and playing Hide and Seek from an imaginary bear in the playground at Barnum Woods Elementary School will always be mine.
My daughter is less dependent now. She knows what clothes she wants to wear. She knows what music she likes and though our musical tastes are not the same, I have introduced her to guitar greats like Hendrix, and together, we have covered the grounds of classic rock to metal. I am not sure where, but somewhere is a picture of my daughter sitting in my arms and wearing a shirt that says, “I listen to Slayer with my Daddy.” I might even have the shirt too.
I also have the first gift she ever gave me. It was a t-shirt with her hand prints on it. I think she gave this to me when she was two. I leave this shirt in my white t-shirt drawer so I can accidentally find it—and remember that she was that little once.
Yesterday was a tough day. The weather has been bad and work is busy. The food I ordered for dinner was delivered wrong and Valentine’s Day was not an easy one.
After all was cleaned and the lights went out, I tucked my little girl into bed and smiled at the memories I have of her ….and quietly, as I tried to leave the bed my little girl opened her eyes and asked, “Daddy, can you lay with me for a little longer.”
“Sure, Punky,” and then I went back to lying beside her until she fell asleep.
I see this as a window of opportunity. As a father to a growing, less dependent girl, my job is to create new memories. Sadly, divorce has become the norm. Split homes are more frequent, which leaves me to wonder if the person who invented marriage was sober….or did they just get drunk one night and wake up the next morning asking, “What the hell did I just do?”
I do not suggest divorce is the only tool, same as I do not suggest abortion is a method of birth control. But I assume they are both necessary in some cases. While I do feel sad that I missed certain things in my child’s young life, I realize my life is created by a succession of events, which lead me to where I am, so I could be who I am and learn what I have learned.
I have written several notes along the way (I call them The Daddy Diaries) and someday, when my daughter is old enough, I will give them to her. This way she will know that I never forgot her — even nights when she did not see me.
See that? That was her first fish.
I was there for that. These are the blocks that I build on