“You’re mom now,” my daughter said. We were at the airport waiting on a flight to Detroit. She was holding a wad of chewed-up gum as thick as her fist.
I was dumbfounded. Unsure what to do or say. So, I tried something deep and insightful: “Huh?!?”
“You’re MOM!” the 11-year-old repeated. “Mom always has a piece of paper for my gum. Don’t you have a piece of paper?!?”
“Paper? I don’t have any paper. I don’t have anything! Go spit it out.”
She stood there and stared at me. Might have even sighed.
“You’re mom now.” What did that even mean?!?
We were traveling together. Just dad and daughter … alone. On the way to see my sister perform in the Michigan Shakespeare Festival. A super-fast trip. Two nights. It was the first time we had gone somewhere so far, and so long, without my wife.
No mom. (Could we manage?)
I had been warned over and over that I had major responsibilities. Like not walking ahead too fast and leaving the kid behind. Yeah, yeah. I wouldn’t do …
“Hel-LLOOO!” I heard a voice say from behind me while heading toward security. The voice sounded oddly familiar, so I turned around. My daughter was rushing to me while pulling her suitcase.
“Uh … you left me back there!!!” she said.
“Huh?!? What? I did?!? I guess I forgot, or something.”
“You forgot? I’m your daughter! You can’t forget. You’re mom now, remember?”
We hadn’t even made it out of state and I was already blowing it.
It was no better on the plane. “Uh … mom usually has a wet wipe to clean off the seat tray for me,” she said.
“Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me,” I replied. “I don’t even have wet wipes.”
“You don’t!” she said, horrified. I sensed she was about to hit the stewardess call button and have herself removed from the plane.
“Fine,” I said, then wiped the tray with my bare hand. She had a repulsed look on her face, and her body slowly leaned away from me. “Mom would NOT do that!” she said.
I have my own way of doing things when I travel, and it was tough adjusting. But I did. As best as any dad can, I guess.
In the end, I think I did alright. We made it. Saw my sister in her shows. Marveled at fireflies as we drove. Laughed. Had a really great time, the two of us, all by ourselves. Returned in one piece. Didn’t record any injuries. Didn’t pick up any flesh-eating viruses from seat-back trays. Bonded. REALLY bonded.
I wasn’t mom, that’s for sure. Moms are special and unique and think about important things. But along the way, I proved I could be “dad” and still save the day. Or at least get us there and back. (Even if it didn’t include carrying wet wipes or taking wads of chewing gum.)
Also published on Medium.