Thursday, September 11, 2003


Willow calls me Daddy. She also calls Darcie Daddy, sometimes, and my parents -- pretty much all her other close relatives except Ginny. Though she seems more tentative when she's not talking about me, much of the time, it's pretty clear that daddy means "family."

So many things have names now: apples, cows, toes. We're far beyond nouns; there are words for walking and eating and nursing and getting a diaper, one color (green, although, it's hard to tell on this one; the word may merely refer to all things that are crayons or make marks on paper), several toys, open, closed, up, down. We walk walk or run run run down the hallway depending on mood, and on whether it's time to tire ourselves out at the end of the day. The softest bedtime bunny I got her before she was even born gets hugs and hop hop hop with a p so sparse it hardly registers.

Daddy was one of her first words, before mamai (mama) and doe (door), not long after dawgh (dog) and mao (cat) and oh (water -- who knew babies spoke french?). It's a common word even today, according to Darcie; when the phone rings, Willow says Daddy?.

What hurts is that I can't trust that she's asking for me.

We had such grand plans for sharing the bedtime ritual: baths together, Beatles instrumentals, Goodnight Moon in Daddy's lap. But the best laid plans fell flat over weeks when she was more distracted by two than one, long months of late work and heavy stress, a summer in Bangladesh, half a world away. I'm gone all day, and Darcie is not.

There are times, more and more, when I worry that it's too late; surely every father does. She won't kiss me, or hug; she cries only for mama, squirming out of my grasp when I catch her in play. I get a couple hours a day, tired when I've come home; they're good hours, better than last year or the year before, clear of work in my mind, but most days, they just whet the appetite and frustrate the soul.

Maybe I'm selfish. I love this precious kid with all my heart, but somehow, until tonight, I thought parenthood would be more rewarding.

But she only had to say I Love You once, unprompted, for me to know she meant it.

Thanks, baby. Daddy loves you, too.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:27 PM |

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