Parenting is hard.
Once when you were 6 years old, your mom went to Cleveland to visit her best friend Suzy. It was the first time I had been called upon to take care of you alone for any length of time. I was excited to have a whole weekend of bonding time with you, but I was a little anxious too. What if something came up that I couldn’t handle?
Your mom assured me that she was just a phone call away. She also reminded me that I could always call Jamie, your big sister who was living nearby on the USC campus. I chided your mom for implying that our college-age daughter might have been better equipped to handle a child care issue than I was, but secretly I took comfort that Jamie was indeed there if I got in over my head.
In those days you took a dance class every Friday night at a dance studio in North Hollywood called Millennium. That Friday I took great care to dress you in the outfit Mom had set out for you before she left. I made sure you had your water, your dance bag, and your dance shoes, just as your mom had instructed. I triple-checked the time of the class so you wouldn’t be late, and I made us leave for class way too early in case we hit traffic. When we got there, the parking gods smiled on us and we got a spot right inside the Millennium lot. So far, so good.
After class, we decided to make a night of it, and I suggested we walk to the pizza place down the street. I was delighted at how smoothly things were going and quite proud of myself. What I didn’t realize was that Millennium locked its parking lot at night, and when we returned from dinner we couldn’t get to our car.
You got scared and started to cry, which is when my respect for your mother’s parenting skills increased exponentially. Suddenly I was scared too, but for a different reason. I knew we could simply take a taxi home and get the car in the morning. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I had no idea how to comfort you.
I put on my happiest face and told you this would be a fun adventure for the two us to share. I said that Mom would be very jealous when she heard we got to take a taxi ride together. That seemed to pacify you a little, so I decided not to mention that I had left the house keys inside the car and thus had no clue how we’d get in the house once we got there.
Jamie had a key, and I called her on the cab ride home. You were being quite brave, but you were still sniffling when I got Jamie’s voice mail, so I made a point of being very jovial as I left her a message. Unfortunately, when you heard the part about my not having the house keys, you started bawling again.
Like most people of her generation, Jamie rarely listens to her voice mails, so I covered my bases and sent her a text as well. Yet by the time the taxi arrived at home, Jamie had not returned either my call or my text.
Plan B was for me to jump over the gate, but you were now crying for a third time and begged me not to leave you alone outside the gate. I didn’t know what to do. I told you that nothing bad could ever happen to you as long as we were together, and that I’d have the gate open and be back in no time. When that didn’t calm you, I told you to count while I went over the gate. I promised that I’d give you a dollar for every number you got to before I was back.
Yes, that’s pathetic. I admit it. But $12 and a bruised knee later, we were at least inside the property, and we caught a break when a glass door to the family room had been left unlocked. We were home at last.
Mackenzie, you could not have been more adorable or courageous that night. I suggested you write Mom a note about your bravery for her to read upon her return, and after some chocolate pudding and 20 minutes of cuddling, you fell asleep in my arms. I was still a little in shock about how the evening had unfolded when Jamie finally called in. “What’s up?” she asked innocently.
The next morning you told Mom about my first solo flight as a parent, adding that “Daddy-sitting” wasn’t as easy as you had expected. For my part, I told your mom to please hurry home.