I remember years ago when she needed me. I was making her breakfast and reading her homework. In fact, there was a time when she couldn’t sleep in her own bed. I never thought the day would come when she could get past being afraid of being alone.
The memories that ran through my head this weekend were as vivid as when we were actually living them. The time she asked me to draw a smiley face, I actually decided to put a little more effort into the picture. I drew an oval, then perfect eyes, a nose and a mouth. Her eyes lit up with excitement, “It’s bootiful daddy!” Then, she grabbed the picture and ran to her room so she could scribble all over it.
When we made pancakes together in the mornings, she would stir the batter and then I started letting her flip. She grew into being more and more responsible. But, I stood over her like a hawk. She wanted to flip the pancakes every two seconds. I taught her how to look for the bubbles, and then flip the pancakes so that we only had to flip them once. If I didn’t make a game of it or give her some way of knowing, playing the guessing game would drive her crazy and our pancakes would have never finished.
Those pancakes were our thing. Now, she doesn’t even like them. She made cereal one morning and cinnamon toast the next. I can’t get her to eat pancakes, let alone make some with me. Our weekends used to be so much different. We watched movies together and took walks to the park. We played hide and seek all around the house.
Sometimes, it was hard for me to keep my composure. She would hide underneath her blanket on her bed. Then, she would giggle as I got closer to her. It was too much. And I would have to keep saying, “Are you under the bed? No. Where could you be? Are you in the dresser drawer? No. Are you under this book? No.” All the while, cute little giggles would waft from the blanket she was under. I left the room to laugh one time and doubled over even more as I heard her say, “Keep looking daddy, you were so close!”
I remember those special moments as the weekend would wind down. We were trying to fit everything we could into the last few hours we had together. We would take a walk and grab some lunch from the buffet down the street. I would get her some candy in the store next door. She ate it like it was her last supper. She wasn’t allowed to have candy at her mom’s.
The entire time we were together, especially in those last hours, all I wanted to do was hug her. It was like I missed her and she hadn’t even left yet. She was there in front of me, but my heart was breaking. It feels the same way now, but for an entirely different reason.
She blows through the door with her bags and straight to her room she goes. Within minutes, she has changed her clothes and back out the door she goes again. She has her friends in the neighborhood and when I need her to come home, I just text her phone. She watches videos on her computer and talks to everyone she knows. Getting her to sit down with me for a minute is like asking her to wash the dishes.
Getting a hug is like pulling teeth. All I get these days are the “I love yous” as she’s running out the door and the quick hugs at night as she’s going to bed. The one thing we did together this weekend was make her bed and with such a protest, I was about ready to just give up and make it myself. But, I still have to be the daddy. And even though she’s my little princess, she still has to be the kid.
Then, those dreaded hours start marching into the end of the weekend. Her mother is due any minute. Her bags are packed and her room is clean. She’s outside talking to her friends and I have that same feeling gnawing away at my insides. She’s still here. She hasn’t left yet. But, my heart is slowly breaking. Because I am lost, I am totally broken, the moment she leaves.