As a father, you often go to all lengths to please your children. Believe me, I know.
Let me tell you why.
My youngest daughter, freshly five and as brash as always, said to me, “Let’s go to the park.”
I said, “Soon.”
“You’ve said that six times,” she said.
I didn’t know she’d been keeping count. But come to think of it, she was right. That was “soon” number six.
“First,” I told her, “we’ve got to clean up the bedroom.”
“Bugger!” she said loudly.
I laughed. She didn’t get that word from me. That’s an English word and, well, Mum’s English, not me. Then I stopped laughing in case Mum heard.
So I continued cleaning up the bedroom while the youngest bounced on the bed, knocking my freshly folded clothes onto the ground. Then I finished and we got her bike out of the garage, said goodbye and went to the park. She rode up and down the path running through the middle of the park, whizzing along with glee. And like the other dads at the park, my face was just as gleeful. But mine was more so. The other dads were only pretending, or at least partly pretending. Their minds were elsewhere: on work, football matches and never-ending to-do lists. Not mine. I was totally into this. And my daughter was too. We were the legitimately happiest ones at the park and everybody who looked at us knew just that!
Then the youngest stopped her bike and pointed.
“What?” I asked.
“That’s kissing corner!”
It was. Teens and young adults were necking (do we still say that?) or smoking (not cigarettes) and chatting.
We must steer clear. That’s what her shocked face seemed to say as she turned her bike around to flee kissing corner. But then she stopped and her face brightened. “We must sneak up and spy on them… like this,” she said as she got off her bike and showed me a demonstration of how to creep up on the romantics. She hunched her body over as if she was creeping toward cover to avoid enemy fire. And so she crept toward a bush that separated the kissers and us. Safely there, she knelt, wiped her brow and gave me the all clear. I started walking slowly and upright toward her. But her eyes narrowed. “Not like that!” she said as softly and as sternly as she could. “Like I did!” I quickly bent my body over like she had and crept toward the safe zone while avoiding the sight of the enemy on the other side of the bush.
She smiled at my approach.
And I thought, hey all you other dads, look who’s absolutely and totally legitimate. Us! We were the legitimately happiest ones in the park, and we were about to surprise the kissers from our cover behind the bush.
My daughter started the countdown on her hand, looking at me sternly and fervently: Five, four, three – the kissers had no idea about what was about to hit them – two, one, charge!