Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Starring The Girl

The Boy was out of town for the weekend, visiting Grandma. The Girl stayed with us.

If you aren’t a parent, it’s hard to convey the kind of quiet that sets in when a child isn’t there. It isn’t really peaceful, since you’re so acutely aware of the absence. (The Boy is both exceptionally tall for his age and REALLY energetic – his favorite game is Leap On Daddy’s Back From Behind! – and The Girl is much more easygoing. Kid population down 50%, but kinetic energy level down 80%.) It’s sort of like when you’re climbing stairs in the dark, and you think there’s one more stair than there actually is, and you sort of fall on the phantom stair without actually stumbling. You keep expecting the stair to be there. You’re just off-balance the entire time.

The Girl got the benefit of some undivided attention, of which she gets too little generally. The Wife took a few hours out of Saturday to have lunch with one of her friends, so Saturday was largely Daddy-Daughter day. We almost didn’t know what to do. We read Elmo books and dinosaur books and Grover books; we drew pictures with crayons; we built towers of oversized legos; we wrestled and tickled; she took a couple good naps. It was waaay too cold to take her outside, so we just did inside stuff. She usually gets overshadowed by The Boy’s energy, so it was good to see what it looks like when she gets to define some time.

I feel bad for The Girl sometimes. She’s an incredibly sweet kid, and she has the kind of laugh that would make Scrooge smile. But sometimes she falls victim to the ‘squeaky wheel’ syndrome, and he’s a lot squeakier than she is. She gets some special time with The Wife on weekday mornings when The Boy is at preschool, but special time with me is a little too rare.

She has a mischievous sense of humor. She hid behind a door, and when I walked past, she said a perfect ‘hello’ in exactly the tone I use. I jumped a little, and she laughed openly. I laughed too, recognizing myself in her. She has several of my mannerisms, including some that you’d have to know me pretty well to notice. There’s something humbling about seeing yourself reflected in a 19-month-old.

The Boy came back Sunday, and brought the usual cacophony. I read The Girl an extra story last night.

We had a very similar experience when Tristan spent the night with Granny and Papa Lou a couple weekends back. Beloved and I couldn't get over how much psychic energy emanates from such a small package, but your missing stair analogy sums it up perfectly. How did we find parenting one child so trying, in the days before Simon arrived? And are we insane to consider a third??
My brother was--and continues to be--the sqeaky wheel. Bless you for reflecting on this and reading The Girl and extra story.
What a great post. Thank you!
"Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him." (NIV)

"Don't you see that children are GOD's best gift? The fruit of the womb his generous legacy?" (Message paraphrase)

Psalms 127:3
Dean Dad, a small suggestion based on my experience growing up as the youngest girl in the family: try to carve out a little time each week for The Girl. This is important given the "energy differential" you describe between The Boy and The Girl, but I think it's even more important because she is a girl. I think there's something special about the father-daughter relationship, and girls can really benefit from some one-on-one time with dad.

It doesn't have to be a big deal. I never saw much of my dad, who worked three jobs and was pretty emotionally unavailable as I was growing up. BUT, on Saturday afternoons, he always took me to the corner carryout to get an Orange Crush. This took all of 30 minutes, if that, and obviously it was very cheap. But getting that weekly Orange Crush with my dad is my favorite childhood memory. It made me feel special to have him all too myself, even if it was just for a half hour once a week.

So, that is my suggestion--try to find a small way to regularly replicate the experience you had with The Girl while The Boy was gone. Maybe it's that extra story a couple nights a week. :) Trust me when I say it will mean a lot to her, both now and when she's an adult.
What a great post. I loved my daddy so much when I was a little girl (still do, of course). We didn't see him a lot because of his work and there were three of us so there wasn't much alone time. But I remember all those little games we played and I'm sure The Girl will too. I think I will call my dad today...
Great post. I could have written it myself 20 years ago (if I could write as well as you). But it my case it was one of the boys, not my daughter, who was quiet and needed extra attention.

Once they are grown and off to college, you hit that missing stair all too often.
We had a similar experience over the weekend. We left our boy with friends while we went out of town for some adult time. It was great, but he was acutely missed rather quickly. They grow up way too fast! Sounds like your girl needed some quality daddy time--that is irreplacable for a little girl!
I can't even imagine what it must be like when they go off to college. This was just a weekend, and it was hard enough!

I LOVE the Orange Crush story. There's a lot of truth to that. When I visited my Grandpa as a kid, he always got me Faygo Redpop. Drinking Faygo Redpop through a swirly straw with Grandpa was my definition of bliss. It would be great to give The Girl an experience like that, as she gets older.

Do they still even make redpop?
Dean Dad: why yes, they do! http://www.nehi.com/faygoredpop.html

I have ordered from this site myself (Orange Crush, in fact) :) and had good luck with it.

I also had those little things with my paternal Grandpa and my maternal grandparents. With Grandpa, it was Juicy Fruit gum; he always made sure he had a fresh pack waiting for me. With Grandma and Grandpa, it was a Reese's Cup. There was always one waiting for me in the refrigerator. I still smile when I think about how I'd open the frig door and always feel surprised to see the candy.

Both my grandpas died when I was 16, but bless their hearts, they never failed to have Juicy Fruit and Reese's Cups during all those years. Even when I was 16, they still had those things for me, and I was still thrilled by it.
Hey Dean Dad, DON'T wait until she's older.

It's interesting to hear from so many women here about how important their relationships with their fathers are. I'll second it; my Dad managed to create a special connection with both my brother and I, separately.

This post makes me wish I could call him now...
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