Sometimes I feel like a dad in a bra.
I travel a lot for work and often miss two-weeks’ worth of Lego masterpieces, bathtub confessionals, bedtime tuck-ins and, even, painfully, the occasional milestone.
There’s the attempt to Skype (although I can’t compete with my boys’ fascination with their own image.)
The guilt-ridden airport-shopping for treats.
And always, always a reparative period when they, sometimes hesitantly, let me back into the fold.
On the airplane home from LA last Saturday night, I daydreamed about my Sunday homecoming. Unfortunately, it rained that day, so our plans were limited to Play-Doh, potion-making, and board games. But every activity was thwarted by my children’s relentless mission to karate chop each other to death. I felt frustrated and disappointed. After pining for them every moment of my trip, I now fantasized about retreating back to my hotel room in LA.
After dinner, there was homework of the Sisyphean sort; coaxing Owen into memorizing a lengthy monologue. My husband wondered (out loud) why the teacher had picked such a lame one and I agreed. I told Owen when I get stuck on something, I try to make it my own. This led to the idea that a hand puppet should deliver his monologue.
Together, we found a small, yellowed gym sock, and, rifling through the art bin, scored a pair of googly eyes, a large red pompom for a nose and some pink felt for a tongue. After gluing him together, a peculiar smile lit across Owen’s face. He named the puppet Creamy, and snap! It was as if the monologue memorized itself.
Later that night, as I was tucking Owen into bed, he told me that making the puppet with me was the greatest thing ever, more fun than movie night. (This coming from the same tough customer who said on the way to see Santa this year, “I mean, what’s the point? Didn’t we see him last year?”)
It’s humbling to remember as parents that it’s not the fireworks, the magician at the birthday, the fancy vacation…more often than not, it’s the non-moment that is the most meaningful. It’s showing up and being present. It’s really listening. It’s not checking your phone every five minutes (even though you want to.) It’s turning an old gym sock into a simple hand puppet and suddenly becoming a hero.
Thanks to a sock named Creamy, I was back in.
Lisa Rubisch is a commercial director and writer, based in New York City.
Photo by Christine Ng