My daughter walked into the house, not long after leaving, and came into the office where I have spent the majority of my days lately.
No one home? I asked as she walked in.
She had tears in her eyes. This was not good.
They saw me and they all ran back into the house, she said, sniffling.
Oh no. We have only been in our new neighborhood a few weeks, and quickly, my 7-year-old had made friends with two other girls her age on the block, and one of the girls’ sister, who is two years older. The three girls had warmly accepted my daughter, riding bikes, playing in the neighborhood pool, playing in the yards – all outdoor activities these days – and they had not only let her enter their circle, but in this day and age, she entered their bubble, too.
Work no longer mattered, this large document I was grinding on all day be damned. I’ll play with you. You name it.
We went into her room, and I gave her a hug. You know what I like when things like this happen to me? She shook her head. Ice cream.
Now, to be clear, I haven’t commiserated over a bowl of ice cream – I think – ever in my life. But I knew ice cream would cheer her up. I came back to the room with a bowl of vanilla, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce shaped into a heart on top. The smile returned as we sat on the floor, and began playing Barbies. We put music on, and laughed, and had fun.
Everything seemed alright – she didn’t even mention the sadness that had struck her only a few moments earlier. Didn’t dwell on it, or go back to the story at all.
The Dad of the Year award was en route to the house now.
Of course, after giving her ice cream to soothe her feelings, I immediately thought What a terrible habit I am instituting here … now, my kid will wallow her feelings into sweets, creating a vicious cycle. Every friend fight, every breakup, every bad grade will equal ice cream. And now we’re delving into female body image issues, and holy crap, that Dad of the Year award is going away.
During dinner time, she wanted to tell silly stories. This was good – she loves telling stories, getting into great detail as she visually paints a picture; no more sad thoughts that the only friends she has in this new city, hopefully kids she would grow up with, were ignoring her. In fact, during one of her stories, she noted how she and two of the girls her age were playing in the pool.
Phew! Crisis averted. Now we are so far away from this because of my incredible fathering actions, that in her made-up fantasy stories she likes to tell, she is actively playing with these girls at the pool.
After dinner, my 7-year-old asked if she could have dessert. I shot her a look.
Now, my wife had missed all of this in-house drama and the cape I had worn in saving the day, because she had been on a hike in the hills near our home. I was kind of hoping to keep this a semi-secret and do a victory lap once the kids were in bed, regaling my wife in this tale of how I am CLEARLY the better parent.
Now, this was all ruined. Oh, yeah, I already had ice cream. My wife was puzzled, inquisitive.
I explained what happened as my kiddo went to brush her teeth. My victory lap was occurring, but quickly now that we only had a few minutes.
I don’t think they saw her my wife explained. I was outside, watching this before my hike. She got down the street a bit and the girls ran back in. I really don’t think they did it on purpose, or even saw her. I told her as much when she came back home.
Well, this was definitely NOT the story I expected. How did my kiddo get this info from my wife, and in the 10 or so feet from the driveway to the house, and the other 10 or so feet to the home office, did she start crying? There was no way she would know to play Dad’s heartstrings and get ice cream, and Barbie time, and music, and silly stories, and fun. No way.
But, she did have to know that she is Daddy’s Girl and I would do whatever it took to soothe her worries.
Oh well, mid-afternoon ice cream isn’t going to kill anyone. And, I was happy to play Barbies and make her laugh, and ignore work for a bit to focus on the right things. So, maybe this was just the universe telling me to take a quick breath and enjoy time with my kid.
Now, back to that damned document.