Our neighbors Chris and Lexa left town for a trip to one of those countries with huge cockroaches. Due to some grandparent scheduling issues (“Matlock” marathon) they needed someone to watch their cuter than cute daughters Callie and Lydie for the night.
We’ve been dog swapping with them for years on vacations, but never kids. But we were up for it. The girls are good pals with Elijah and Luca and are pretty self sufficient. Besides, I felt it was an opportunity for me to convince children other than my own that I am a good dad.
I was working from a deficit. My first real interaction with Callie and Lydie was them watching me chase and scream at Grover as he delighted in freedom, having escaped out our front door. I think I even blamed them for leaving the door open. And if memory serves, my leg was pouring blood from bashing it mid pursuit. But I was confident I could be the best temporary father in the world.
After work last night, I burst through the door and shouted, “Hello family!” in my best sitcom dad voice. Laying it on thick, I hugged both my sons in a warm embrace. They frowned, wondering if their old man had stopped by a tavern on the way home to drink his dinner.
I then introduced a bit I would grasp onto for dear life all evening. “Hello daughters!”
“We aren’t your daughters,” Callie pointed out.
“Ahh, but tonight, you are my daughters. Why, I may even draw up some adoption papers to make it legal.” If memory serves, I gave her a wink to let her know I was just having a little good-natured fun.
At dinner, I played the part of Great Dad. I didn’t scream at anyone to eat their vegetables or to stop leaning back in their chair or to quiet down before I take away screens until they were 18.
I laughed uproariously at their stories and asked about their days and did a dramatic reading of Eli’s progress report. I swallowed my rage at his teacher’s issues with his attention span. “Oh that’s ok son. Paying attention is a real mystery,” I said while patting his shoulder. He was fully convinced I had taken a bad spill at work and suffered brain damage.
After baths, where I not once lost it over water all over the floor, they retired to their rooms. Lydie and Luca slept in Luca’s room and the other two in Eli’s room, in order to be as confusing as possible. This also gave Luca an opportunity to show Lydie his gentials.
Knowing Lydie was listening from the top bunk, I indulged Luca with story after story about Star Wars. Another story after I already told you this was the last one? Of course, son. I even regaled them with a bonus story of a samurai and Zen master I plucked out from deep in my brain.
This morning, I worked from home to convince Callie and Lydie I make breakfast every morning. I even let them watch TV in my bed and eat cereal.
Eli absentmindedly left his bowl on the floor while he went to get dressed for school. I accidentally kicked it, sending milk and Whole Foods Froot Loops all over our room.
I totally lost it and yelled at Eli to mop up the mess. I loudly announced that no one was ever going to have cereal in our room again. No! No one was ever going to eat cereal in our house ever again!
Callie and Lydie stood in the doorway with looks of relief. The dad they knew was back.
p.s. Some of these children are Callie and Lydie.