What’s interesting about having another kiddo around is this: I had just, really just reached the point where I felt totally comfortable bringing our daughter pretty much anywhere by myself.
Case in point, Easter weekend. My wife became ill that Friday, the same day we had a follow-up doctor’s appointment for our daughter. When it was determined she couldn’t go, I just assumed we’d reschedule because I sure as heck wasn’t going by myself. Well, apparently we had waited like six months for this appointment, so I was told I would be bringing her. Our daughter sees so many developmental specialists, I wasn’t even 100 percent sure what kind of doctor this was, or his name. Hello, Doctor … person. I am the father. Here is the girl. I assume you have a file or something? Here is my phone if you need to call my wife. It’s under “wifey” in contacts. She might not answer because she is terribly ill I mean her ringer is on low so keep calling. I’ll be in the waiting room.
Everything ended up going well at the doc, and I felt like a good dad. It dawned on me that I was more concerned about my interaction with the doctor than with bringing our daughter, which made me happy. It used to be that I’d become a big ball of stress when bringing her somewhere on my own because I never knew how she’d react, and how I’d react to that, or where the bathroom was, or what to do if she yells “Stranger!” at someone. Not that I’m a bumbling doofus, but my wife’s mere presence has a calming influence over me because I know most of the time she just has to glare menacingly at our daughter and everything will be okay.
My wife was still feeling sick Easter morning, which meant the girl and I would be going to church on our own. I wouldn’t have even entertained the thought a year ago. I would have just gone on my own, or missed it and asked for forgiveness. Dear God, I’m sorry I missed church this week, but the wife was sick and well … You know. Amen. But, armed with the confidence of having brought her on my own to church a few weeks back (in Sun City! In the second row!) I was like, “I got this.”
We went, dressed in our Easter best and amidst the chaos of the bustling crowd. The only thing her nonexistent attention span radar caught the entire Mass was the phrase “Jesus died,” and she responded by turning to me in the middle of Mass, with horror in her loud voice, saying “Jesus DIED?” A year ago I would have rushed out of church in a blur of embarrassment, but I calmly whispered to her a 30-second reeanctment of the entire New Testament and somehow soothed her fears enough for her to continue coloring a picture of Winnie of the Pooh. I felt like an awesome dad and Catholic and gave Jesus an invisible high-five.
The following weekend my wife had to get her hair done, which takes like 12 hours I guess? Anyway, I took our daughter to the pool, park, out to lunch, gave her a bath and got her down for a nap all by myself, AND had a great time doing it. I was in the zone. Nothing could stop me.
Another girl has stopped me. I don’t even want to leave the house anymore. She is at that exact age of unpredictable public behavior that gives me the sweats, and her presence has reignited my original fears about the first girl. And the thing is, she’s well-behaved. But I can’t risk it. We go as a family or we don’t go at all. That’s the motto. Amen.
Note: This column appears in the 4/25 issue of The Glendale Star and the 4/26 issue of the Peoria Times.