The other night I had to drop my 8 year old Hannah off at Prep class (mandatory night schooling for young Catholics if they ever want to be old Catholics). I gave Hannah a kiss goodbye and her sister, my 5 year old Emma, and I waved goodbye. Then I looked down at Emma and asked, “Ok, what now?”
The two of us had an hour and a half to kill while Hannah learned about the New Testament. What we did with the next 90 minutes was now on the table for discussion. I like being able to spend one on one time with my kids. I know the time is coming when neither of my children will even acknowledge my existence let alone go out with their dad, so while I have the opportunity, I like to make the most of it.
Now a 5 year old is given the blank check of “Ok, what now?” there can be a wide range of suggestions. Emma gave me everything from coloring with markers to driving to Kentucky so we could see my brother in law and his family. After I explained the logistical impossibility of a roadtrip to Kentucky, Emma threw out a few more ideas. We settled, in between taking the dog for a walk and going swimming (in the Pacific Ocean), on Italian Ice at Rita’s.
The 20 minute drive to the Rita’s Emma and I talked only about Italian Ice. The flavors, colors, advantages of mixing in gelato. The disadvantages of mixing in gelato. We discussed which Italian Ice she would not be getting and why (sorry Mango). If you never thought you could talk about something like Italian Ice for longer than 30 seconds, have a five year old sometime (you’ll find yourself having the same type of discussions about bananas too).
When we pulled up to the red and white striped Rita’s building, Emma had her mind set on a Blue Raspberry Italian Ice. Since I ok’d the decision before I had a chance to check my car to see if I had a change of clothing for her or at least a drop cloth to avoid drips and drops staining the clothing her mother put her in earlier in the day, Blue Raspberry Italian Ice it was.
We got the ice and headed back to my car (Only a kid thinks about an Italian Ice when it was 50 degrees outside. I was thinking soup.). I let her sit up front with me because we were parked and I wanted to keep a vigil on her pants as she wolfed down the blue ice as sloppily as she could eat it.
In between dabbing from the box full of tiny square napkins I swiped from the counter, we talked. About school, her friends, who was singing the song on the radio, and what her sister must be doing (not eating an Italian Ice that was for sure). She gave me a few bites of her Raspberry Ice and then we stuck our tongues out at each other and in the rearview mirror to figure out who’s was bluer. She won. I let her stick her head out of the sunroof. I tried to keep up with the Italian Ice shrapnel peppering her khaki (of all colors) pants but gave up and prayed we had a stain stick at the house.
When, for the few seconds she sat still and was quiet eating her ice, I just watched her.
She finished and said, with blue lips, “All done Daddy. What now?”
“Well, now that you’ve finished your ice, you’re going to be going to junior high and senior high school. You’ll forget you have a father unless it’s to tap him for a cash withdrawal from his wallet. You’ll have boyfriends who will break your heart and I’ll want to break their hands. You’ll most likely beg for the keys to the car so you and your girlfriends can go to the mall. You’ll never put gas in it either. I’ll be the most embarrassing human being on the planet. According to you, I’ll never be able to understand you. You’ll go to college. Graduate (summa cum laude of course). Get married. Have kids. And hopefully won’t put me in a home after I retire.”
That’s what I was going to say.
What I really said was, “All done?”
“Yup. Thanks Daddy. You’re the best Daddy in the whole world.” (Italian Ice, ice cream, staying up late all tend to elicit votes for me as the best Dad in the whole world from both kids)
“Thanks kiddo. And you’re welcome. You know, you’re the best 5 year old in the whole world?”
“I know. And Hannah is the best 8 year old in the whole world right?”
“What now Daddy?”
I looked at the clock and said, “We should probably head back for your sister.”
Emma sighed, “I wish we could stay here and get another Italian Ice Daddy.”
“So do I kiddo. So do I.”