Just the Two of Us
My wife is the sixth of eight kids. Do you think we can find a photograph of her as a child all by herself? No. Any photos we have of her include two, three, four or more siblings. When we had our three daughters, all close in age, we realized we did everything as a family together. That’s good, but we also wanted to give each girl some solo time. We created Daddy-Daughter Day to represent my outings with them. I would take one of my girls on a date. No siblings. No friends. Just Papa bonding with each daughter.
This sort-of-monthly event began when the girls were around 4 or 5 years old and continued through their elementary school years. This was before Action City was around. We frequented Chuck E. Cheese (there used to be one in the East Ridge Mall), the indoor mini-golf (there used to be one on London Road), the other mini-golf (there used to be one behind the Pizza Hut on West Clairemont), the arcade at Oakwood Mall (there used to be one next to the Food Court), the arcade at the London Square Mall (there used to be London Square Mall), or the bowling alley (Wagner’s is still there). We often finished with ice cream or some other edible treat. Dairy Queen was a favorite. I told the girls that our minivan was driving itself to Dairy Queen. When my son, Sam, who was born four years after the last girl, was old enough, Daddy-Daughter Day incorporated Daddy-Son Day.
We sat inside, silently eating our ice cream cones, when Parker lit up and said, “Hey Grandpa. There’s a one-story house with a pink living room, a pink bedroom, and a pink kitchen. What color is the staircase?” I thought a bit and guessed, “Pink?” “No,” he smiled. “There is no staircase. It’s a one-story house!”
Daddy-Daughter/Son Days morphed into a one-time Storytelling-Trip-with-Dad-Week (I’m a semi-retired professional storyteller). One year, I took Laura and Julia together on a gig to Minnesota’s Iron Range. It was fun for me because it had become rare to be with those two girls together without anyone else around. We swam and toured mine pits and museums between performances. I even took the girls to Canada for their first visit there when I finished one show in Baudette and headed to the next in International Falls. Alice joined me another time in the southeastern part of Wisconsin. Her favorite memory is the mini-golf mountain near Racine. Years later, I took Sam to the same location where the two of us camped and hiked.
Growing up, I rarely did anything alone with either parent. One summer, I spent a good month alone with my father. The two of us were building a cabin, camping on the property Dad bought two years earlier. Looking back, I think that’s the only time I was alone with him for any amount of time. We didn’t talk much, but we worked and played together. We made some of my favorite life-memories. I hope I did the same thing with my kids – made some of their favorite memories. Do the same with your children.
Back in August, my wife and I watched our four very young grandchildren for two days so that their parents could attend the Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival. That first afternoon, I headed to the bakery to buy a loaf of bread. At the last minute, I grabbed my 7-year-old grandson Parker. I had hardly spent any time with Parker without his brother or parents around. We clandestinely turned our boring bread trip into a Dairy Queen visit. We sat inside, silently eating our ice cream cones, when Parker lit up and said, “Hey Grandpa. There’s a one-story house with a pink living room, a pink bedroom, and a pink kitchen. What color is the staircase?” I thought a bit and guessed, “Pink?” “No,” he smiled. “There is no staircase. It’s a one-story house!” We traded puzzle stories back and forth when it hit me. We were having a Granddaddy-Grandson Day. The first of what I hope will be many.