Yesterday, the wifie was supposed to go out with her mom and sisters “for a few hours” starting at around 10:00 am. Those of you who know my dear, sweet in-laws know that “for a few hours” is code for “we won’t be home until midnight, if then”. Since yesterday was the start of spring break, it meant that daddy would have all day with his daughters.
Now to be honest, this isn’t always a slam dunk. I’m great with kids – older kids. High schoolish kids. I’m not so great with little kids. My patience isn’t what it needs to be. I’m too demanding (or so I’ve been told). I get irritated far too easily. My sarcasm is lost on the audience. You get the gist of it…
Anyway, the day started off in a bad way. I told the girls that before we could have fun, we had to pick up the house a little bit – before play, the work must get done. Its a noble lesson every parent should teach their kids. But it doesn’t feel so noble when the whining starts immediately.
“But Daddy – we are supposed to have FUN today,” whinedReagan.
“Sobs,” from Riley, who is now laying face down on the couch.
My tolerance already tested, I have a discussion with them about the importance of work and how if they don’t learn to work now, how can they ever hope to be successful in life. Yes, it might have been a bit over their heads. Reagan angrily pronounced, “Daddy Day is never fun when you make us slave away in the house!”
Well, they did work… and they grumbled the whole time. After about an hour, I told them I would take them out for lunch. I asked them to pick a place to eat. Again, mistake on my part. Reagan immediately chose Arby’s, and Riley wanted McDonald’s. Then Reagan decided on Applebee’s, and Riley went with Buffalo Wild Wings. I said those cost too much (“You’re so cheap, daddy!” Reagan informed me). Finally, I had a winning idea. They girls both love Pizza Hut lunch buffet, so I told them to get in the car – we’re going to Pizza Hut!!! Both girls gave me a look as if I was crazy.
“I hate the pizza there!” Reagan shook her fist.
“I want tasty wild wings,” cried Riley, tears welling up all over again.
What’s a dad to do? Forge ahead with his plan, of course. “Pizza Hut it is!!!” I declared, despite the wailing of the natives.
On the way to Pizza Hut, I caught my first break. There was a bad accident on the road, and the girls instantly forgot their disappointment with pizza.
“Look at that smashed up car!”
“I hope they’re in heaven!”
“No, Riley, they’re not in heaven! They’re in front of the ambulance right there!”
“Oh yeah! Well, I hope if they had any dogs in the car that they are alright.”
“That car isn’t alright, that’s for sure! Look at its smashed front end! I bet they were going fast, huh Daddy?”
Nothing like a little destruction to turn a day around.
Pizza Hut helped me to continue my comeback. The accident had caused total memory loss, and the girls tore into endless pizza and breadsticks. Daddy cleverly managed to drop the lid of the marinara dipping sauce pot into the pot itself at the buffet, leading to endless giggles from the girls as daddy tried to fish it out. Daddy also was talking to the girls while walking back to the buffet, and ran right into a small boy that was carrying a plate full of pizza. Another eruption of giggles.
Our next journey was to the reptile shop. I have had it in my mind for quite some time now that we need a pet tortoise. Wifie is adamantly opposed. The girls side with me on this one. So we made our way to Stinger’s Exotics, the best reptile shop in our part of town.
Unfortunately, it was closed for Good Friday. They must be the devout kind of snake handlers. The true problem – my momentum was lost. The girls were angered by the shopkeeper’s display of piety. There was a real danger that tears would soon erupt anew.
Sometimes pressure brings out the best in me. What hadn’t I done with the girls in a long, long time? Gone to a movie! Hmmm… was there a movie out right now that mama didn’t want them to see because it would be too scary, but daddy could take them whilst mama spent money with reckless abandon? The new Wizard of Oz movie! Aww yeah!
After our eyes readjusted to the light of day, we decided to go home and ride bikes. However, plans sometimes change – especially when the killer squirrel of Plymouth is on the loose. As we drove up, I saw my arch nemesis bounding across the front yard. Oh, how I hate that creature. I sent the girls inside to get the Nerf bow and arrows while I treed the attack squirrel. He is not afraid of me. He climbed the tree to about the height of my head, and then turned and started chittering away. He bared his teeth at me too! Oh, it was on! Luckily, I had my two sidekicks there to help me!
Reagan handed me the bow, and Riley the Nerf arrow. I took careful aim, and targeted the nasty little tree rodent. I released.
Boom! Direct hit to the face!
The girls cackled in delight! Then they took their turns. While neither hit him, I had won the moment. The day with Daddy was quickly turning into a winner!
After battles, warriors need to quench the fire in their bellies with cookies and a drink – so off to Panera. The girls couldn’t stop talking about all that had happened – the car wreck, daddy smacking the boy in Pizza Hut, Oz, the showdown with the squirrel… I felt like a champ.
One last activity awaited us – spring weather meant time for our first bike ride of the year. We rode over to the campus where I teach. For the uninitiated, the school(s) where I teach consists of three separate high schools, all connected by paths and roads. Its truly a huge high school – over 6,600 students, and a huge amount of land. We road over bridges, onto trails, between the schools, over curbs, and raced along the back road. We discovered a tipi built in the woods. Finally, as we made our way home, we discovered a dead squirrel in the gravel on the side of the final path. It seemed a solemn moment – as if the enemy that had bound us together several hours before had been ultimately defeated. We dismounted and gathered around for a moment of silence. Then, the girls reached a decision.
“We need to bury him, daddy,” Reagan told me.
“Yes, the poor thing never had a chance,” Riley said, dabbing at a tear.
I explained that, without a shovel, we wouldn’t be able to bury him – they would need to find a likely spot for his resting place. They poked around a bit and saw a tree uprooted about 5 feet into the woods. Underneath the tree appeared to be a puddle. They felt that the puddle would wash away the horrors of death, if I would but tenderly place the squirrel there.
I found a large stick, and used it to pick up the squirrel. He was freshly dead – not even stiff yet. We walked him to the spot, single file, paying our respects by observing the proper decorum. We wished him farewell, and I tossed him into the puddle. Except that it wasn’t a puddle. Since the uprooted tree was deep in the shadows, the puddle was still ice. The squirrel landed with a loud, wet thump and went skidding across the surface. I turned to the girls, worried about how they might react. They were already bent over, howling with laughter!
“Did you hear that wet smack?”
“I know – daddy broke a dead squirrel!!!”
We ran back to our bikes, and rode off into the dusk. I’ll always remember Riley’s feet pumping furiously and Reagan’s pony tail flowing out behind her as they laughed the last few minutes of the day away.