Thursday, April 21, 2011
Father Knows Best?
As a father, I'm here to tell you - they should have left it in place.
Last weekend, Kristina celebrated her fourth birthday. Her real birthday isn't until next week, but don't tell her that. When we left the party, Kristina - in the backseat - looked over at her sister and said, Oh boy, Elizabeth. When we got in the car to go to the party, I was three-years-old. But now we're in the car again, and I'm four!
Unlike her big sister - who's happy to have intimate gatherings for her own birthday - Kristina is more the social butterfly. She knew she wanted to have her celebration at Pump It Up, and her guest list quickly numbered into the 20's. Pump It Up is basically a great big jumpy house - with pizza and cake thrown in at the end. But I'm concerned with the beginning - with the start of the party - when the kids are ushered into the first of the huge jumpy rooms.
Pump It Up is fun, but it can be overwhelming - with 70's music blaring. With two dozen kiddos jumping around, kickballs getting kicked, parents trying to keep track of their own kids as those kids jump and tumble and slide. In the midst of all that, Kristina reaches up for my hand and says, Daddy? He's not happy.
She points at one of her friends - he's four, but littler than Kristina - who's literally huddled in a far corner, scrunched up in as tight a ball as he can make, his face hidden in that corner, hidden by his hands. I kissed Kristina on top of her head, said thanks, and hustled over to the boy. I wanted to give him plenty of room, so I squatted down a few feet away and said, Hey there, tiger. Are you ok?
Same thing. The poor little guy shot something back, but I couldn't hear him. The music, the screams of the other kids, the fact that he covered his face even harder, cried into his hands even louder. I scootched again, cutting the distance between us. Hey you, I said. Is there something I can do?
More tears. He knotted himself into an even tighter ball. And again, his words were muffled by his tears and his hands. I'm on my knees now, right next to him. I place a comforting touch on his shoulder - quick but soft. I'm sorry, I said. I can't hear you And I'm trying to put my best Daddy-voice on. Trying to fill my words with care, with gentleness.
I don't know what it was exactly - maybe that delicate touch on his shoulder, maybe the sympathetic tone of my words - but I finally got him to turn his little tear-streaked face towards me. Finally got him to move his hands down and away from his mouth so I could hear his words clear. Loud and clear. The little guy, with his hair all mussed and his eyes red, turned my way and screamed:
GET. AWAY. FROM. ME.
I almost fell backwards trying to get to my feet, calling back to him that I was gone - good and gone - and that I'd be sure to do what I should've done in the first place. Find his mommy. Because, see, mommies know best.
No question mark needed.