Chloe and I were sitting on the floor playing with some of her toys when Stephanie came back from the store. Chloe decided she wanted to help her mom in the kitchen and ran into to see what she could do, so I sat down at the table and took a look at the newspaper. While I was skimming through the headlines, Chloe said to Stephanie, “My favorite part of the day is spending time with my Papa.”
My heart melted instantly as I looked up from what I was reading and listened to the rest of their conversation.
“Your favorite part of the day is spending time with your Papa?” Stephanie asked.
“You know, your Papa loves spending time with you too, Chloe.”
“Yeah, I know. He’s the good guy,” Chloe responded.
“He’s the good guy?!” Stephanie chuckled.
“Yeah,” Chloe said. Then she ran over to me at the table and said, “You’re the good guy, Papa!”
I gave Chloe a big hug and told her, “One of my favorite parts of the day is spending time with my Chloe.”
“I know,” she said matter-of-factly and ran off to play in the living room with her dolls.
Chloe has been fun to watch grow up over the past year and she has a very distinct personality. She just turned three a couple of weeks ago and she has learned the “fun way” about the ritual of the birthday celebration.
I decided a few years ago that some days are just extra special and on these special dates, I decided to take the day off from work to spend the time with my kids. Birthdays are one of the special rites of passage that require my attendance. So each year, on each of my children’s birthdays, I take the day off from work and spend the whole day doing whatever he or she wants to do; in a nutshell, I spoil them rotten.
Josh and I have been doing this for a few years now and so far he has spent the day doing the exact same thing; the carousel, the arcade, miniature golf, lunch at the restaurant of his choice and a trip to the ice cream shop. But this was the first year that Chloe was going to be old enough to choose how she wanted to spend her birthday. She didn’t quite grasp the concept at first because all she wanted to do was go to the McDonald’s Play Space for lunch. So after a lot of discussion about the endless possibilities that awaited us on our “Daddy/Daughter Day a.k.a. Chloe’s Birthday,” I made some concrete suggestions that Chloe decided to try out.
We started the day at the “open” Gym in town. One of the gymnastics programs has an “open” gym on Monday mornings, so I took Chloe to the gymnasium to start the day out by running and playing. I was nervous at first because I didn’t know how we would exactly spend our time at the “open” gym but my worries were soon put to rest because Chloe has a vivid and wild imagination. She decided that the foam pit underneath the uneven bars was a shark infested ocean filled with ice chunks that Chloe kept falling into and I had to save her before the sharks could eat her up.
We spent time on the trampoline where she was trying to leap a great big wall to get into the castle. She walked on the balance beam which I soon found out was a plank over a lake of hungry alligators. Of course I was safe from the alligators so I could hold her hand and help her walk across the plank. That way she wouldn’t fall into the alligator pit and get eaten up. And although that logic wouldn’t hold up under any form of scientific scrutiny, I accepted her explanation as though it were gospel. If Chloe told me I was safe from the alligators by holding her hand, then I was safe. No questions asked.
We did tumbles, played with a ball, ran a make shift obstacle course and engaged in many activities before it was time to leave. And with each passing moment, I got to spend a little more precious one-on-one time getting to know the amazing little girl my daughter is becoming on a daily basis. She is smart, funny, at times, temperamental and extremely creative.
When we left the “open” gym, we decided to follow Josh’s suggestion and head over to the arcade to see if we could win some tickets and ultimately, some prizes. It was fun for me to have this time to spend with her as she learned some new games and as she played some of her all-time favorites. Her smile reached from ear to ear as she collected tickets and traded them in for prizes.
Then came her favorite part of the day; we left the arcade and went to the McDonald’s Play Space for lunch and some fun. I watched as my little girl navigated the world around her with ease. She just seemed so grown up. Just yesterday, she was born and tomorrow, I fear that she will be graduating from college and will be starting out on a life of her own. I wanted to freeze that moment in time and I wanted to save it forever, but I couldn’t.
I felt a little silly for a second. I had always heard people talk about wanting to freeze time so their kids would never grow up because time went by so quickly. I just never thought I would have had one of those moments or I would have been one of those people who had to stop and ask myself, “Where has the time gone?”
And yet, there I was; sitting in the middle of a McDonald’s restaurant watching my child growing up and I was wondering where the last three years of her life had gone. And in the very next moment, I smiled and said to myself, “This is exactly what today is all about.”
I admit that my work can be consuming at times. There are days when I am able to work a simple eight hours and then go home to spend time with my family. But more times than not, I leave my house at eight in the morning and I don’t come home until after six in the evening; sometimes later. I have other commitments that I have made to various groups and people that take up a lot of my free time. There are weeks when I leave before the kids day even gets started and I come home after they have gone to bed and for everything I may have done out in the world to make it a better place, I feel horrible that I missed out on another day with my children.
So I started my “Daddy/Kid days” about six years ago to reverse the trend. These are days that I spend solely with my children and my wife. I take these days off to spend time with my kids so I that I know I made their place in the world a little bit better. And to be completely honest, I don’t feel bad at all about not contributing to the gross national product. I firmly believe that the world will be a better place because of the time I personally took to show my children how wonderful life is when we take the time to make a difference in our own families.
As Chloe and I left the McDonald’s Play Space, I could tell she was worn out and needed a little break to energize herself for the remainder of the day. As I buckled her into her car seat, she yawned and looked at me with those big brown eyes and said, “Papa, this is the best day ever but you know what would make it better?”
“It’s your day, Chloe, whatever you want to do to make it better, we’ll do. So what would make this day better?”
“If we got Joshie from school and took him and Mommy out for ice cream.”
“That would make this day better?”
“Yeah,” she yawned.
“Then let’s go pick them up and take them out for ice cream,” I said as I closed her door. I jumped into my seat, started the engine and I drove off to Josh’s school to pick him up so we could take him to get some ice cream. It may not seem like a grand gesture to the rest of the world, but it meant everything to me because in a day where she could have selfishly thought about herself; she didn’t. She thought about including her mom and her brother as well.
I admit that time passes too quickly. The first three years of her life went by in the blink of an eye. I can only imagine how quickly the next three years will go. And maybe, she will wake up tomorrow and be a college graduate. But when the time comes for her to leave the nest and start out on her own journey, I know she will realize the true importance of family and hopefully, the underlying meaning of life; love!
As I sang Chloe to sleep the other night, she looked at me sheepishly and said it again, “My favorite part of my day is spending time with my Papa.”
My heart melted again! I never get tired of hearing Chloe or Josh make those types of statements to me. It reminds me of the important role I play in their lives, not as a provider but as a role model; no, as their Papa! Children Now uses a quote that have I adopted into my life: “Anyone can be a Father but it takes a man to be a Dad.” My kids need me to be a Dad who is involved in their daily lives, not just a Father who shows up every once in a while to see how things are going.
“One of the favorite parts of my day is when I get to play with my Chloe,” I responded. “Especially when I get to have you fall asleep on my shoulder while I sing to you.”
“I love that too,” she said through a big yawn. She closed her eyes and fell asleep. And as she drifted off into dreamland, I sat there and bonded with her by singing every song I could think of; even though I knew she was completely asleep.