My wife has a part-time job, and my hours are very flexible. This means I spend a lot of time with my two daughters during daytime hours. We go to restaurants, grocery stores, nursing homes, and the office.
Both of my daughters are adorable and engaging. They smile and wave at people. They tell people things like, “Your shirt is pretty.” This means that I have many conversations with strangers that I otherwise would not have.
Usually this is quite fun. I like meeting new people, and I love how my girls brighten people’s day. There is one conversation though, that gets on my nerves. On a fairly regular basis, someone will ask me something like, “Are you babysitting today?”
Once I actually said, “No. I’m her Dad.” The woman looked at me a little puzzled, as if I didn’t understand her question.
What I wanted to say was:
“No. I’m not a babysitter. A babysitter is someone who occasionally watches a child, often for money. A babysitter has temporary hours, and goes home. I am her Daddy. I cut her umbilical cord and handed her to her mother. I never breast fed her, but I spent many long nights holding and feeding her. There were a few months when there was no one on earth that could put her to sleep faster than me. I changed diapers, wiped butts, and cleaned up puke. I was at the helm of The Great Poopy Disaster of 2011. The last time she had a stomach virus, the only place she wanted to sit was my lap. I had to change shirts twice. I once got a little bit of her poop in my mouth.
“I made up a song about how strong and smart she is, and sing it to her at night after carrying her to bed. Every morning before she gets out of bed to start school, I hold her. I hold her and I pray for her and I kiss her sleepy head. I know that in my arms she is safe, and I contemplate just staying there safe and warm forever. Every morning we eventually get up, I cook her breakfast, pack her lunch, and kiss her goodbye when her ride gets here. I send her into the world and pray to God that I sent her with enough love to get her through the day.
“I can make a pretty tight pony tail, paint a pretty neat fingernail, and I’ve taught her how to catch and throw a softball. She’s my doctor, my hairstylist, and my makeup artist. Sometimes she picks out my tie.
“We built a Lego Jabba’s Palace, and we’re working on the Rancor Pit. I’m currently leading the best-of-101 game Stanley Cup air hockey series 23-17. I took her to her first hockey game, her first Major League baseball game, her first ballet, and we have already set a date for December 18, 2015.
“The last snow day we had together, we turned on the TV a total of zero times. I help her with homework, and taught her M&M math. She told me when a boy hurt her feelings at school, and when her best friend was mean to her. She has wiped many tears on my shirt. My kisses work to heal boo-boos.
“I’ve messed up plenty. I’ve been the cause of more of those tears than I wish to admit. I get too angry over little things. I get frustrated because she just won’t listen. I wonder why she doesn’t seem to understand the phrase, “you need to hurry up.” Sometimes I’m too busy, or too tired, or too selfish. I’m not a perfect Dad, but by the grace of God I’m trying to be. She teaches me everyday about the power of grace and forgiveness. Being their Dad is the greatest, and most important thing I’ll ever do.
“So no, I’m not babysitting. I’m her Dad.”
But usually I just say, “Yeah, Mom is working. Aren’t I lucky?”