A Moment in the Morning
My kids are early risers. As soon as the first gray tint of morning squeezes through the cracks in their curtains, they are up and kicking. On the weekends, that means they are usually my alarm clock.
On this particular day I had just gotten up when Becky, my first-born, met me in the hallway as I was coming out my bedroom. The first thing my half-awake brain noticed was that she was unabashedly devoid of any clothing except her pajama shirt. She’s three, and potty-training is almost over, the last hurdle being making it through the night without incident. Despite not yet having had my morning coffee, I was still sharp enough to recognize that at the very least there should’ve been a Pull-Up on this child, and I distinctly remembered putting shorts on her before she went to bed the night before.
To be totally fair, Becky is a bit of a self-starter, so if she wakes up in the morning with a wet Pull-Up, she has a tendency to take it off and throw it away herself. However, when she does this, she always puts her pajama bottoms back on afterwards. Why she doesn’t just go ahead and put her underwear on for the day? It’s a work in progress, ya’ll. One thing at a time…
The logical conclusion was that Becky herself must have been the culprit in removing her shorts, and therefore she must know where they are. And they would have to be found, since eating breakfast without pants on would reduce a pillar of our well-structured Neal society to rubble and anarchy surely would ensue. The most obvious course of action, then, would be to ask my daughter where her pants were.
DAD: “Becky, where are your pants?”
BECKY: (with a knowing smile that only parents should be allowed to have) “It’s a long story, Dad.”
And then she proceeded to turn and walk into the living room, one palm upturned in a casual explanatory shrug, as if her responsibility to supply me with information had been totally fulfilled by this passing remark. I was left standing in the hallway, baffled and confused: 1) I still didn’t know where her pants were, and 2) I had no idea where she’d learned to explain herself with “It’s a long story”. Her mother and I have certainly never explained anything to Becky as “it’s a long story”, so where she picked this up is a mystery to me. The worst of it was how much authority she said it with, like the conversation was closed.
So, being the smart Dad I am, I trailed behind her and repeated my question.
DAD: “Becky, where are your pants at?”
BECKY: (now with indignation, obviously impatient that it didn’t compute the first time) “It’s a long story, Dad!”
DAD: “Yes, but where are your pants?”
BECKY: “It’s a long story!”
DAD: “Okay, I get that, but I still need to know where your pants are…”
BECKY: “It’s. A long. Story.”
Okay, fine, whatever.
At this point, I finally figured out I wasn’t going to get anymore insights out of my three-year-old, so I dropped the investigation and pointed her in the direction of her bedroom.
DAD: “I need you to go find your pants, Rebecka.”
It’s funny how my daughter can hear and comprehend almost every word I say, but when I give her an instruction I might as well be mumbling it in Greek, as my directions are somehow totally lost in translation. Is this only my kid? I’m hoping she’ll just outgrow it…
DAD: “Your pants. Go find them.”
BECKY: (shrugging her shoulders and shaking her head, brow crinkled with confusion) “Where are they?”
Oh, for goodness sake.
DAD: “I don’t know, you won’t tell me. Now go find them.”
BECKY: “I don’t know where my pants is.”
DAD: “I don’t either, but you have to find them.”
At this she gave an exasperated groan and tromped into her bedroom, immediately beginning to search in places where she knew her pants most certainly would not be. Having known her practically all her life, I was well aware that she was doing this on purpose. It was an attempt to get me to find her pants. The trick is she looks in one or two places where she knows her pants aren’t, then she whips up some foot-stomping frustration and plays the “I can’t find it!” card. The desired outcome is that Dad comes in and “helps”, which really just means Dad ends up doing all the work. Obviously, I knew better than to be fooled by her little scheme, and it certainly was not going to be me looking for her pants that had miraculously disappeared.
Naturally, I ended up being the one looking for her pants that had miraculously disappeared. We emptied the toy box: no pants in there, so we put everything back. We emptied out all the dress-up stuff: no pants there either. Basically we pulled out everything in the room that could be pulled out and then put it all back, and still no trace of the missing pants.
Finally, I checked under her bed. And there, underneath her headboard, all the way in the furthest back corner, was her pajama shorts. Crisis averted, mystery solved. I held them up to show Becky, who lit up like I’d found her a Christmas present that we forgot to give her.
BECKY: (beaming and grinning) “My pants! My pants!”
I could see in her eyes that, for the moment, Dad finding her pants was the best thing ever. And sure, maybe in the next moment something else would be the best thing ever, and Dad would go back to just being plain ol’ Dad. But I eat those moments up, man. You don’t get to be somebody’s hero every day, and you don’t get celebrated for finding pajama bottoms under a bed. But that’s the chance you get when you have kids. You get to save the day, and you get the privilege of having your kids think you’re amazing, even when you’re feeling far less than such.
Pay attention. Don’t miss the moments.
So I guess you might be wondering how those pants ended up under the bed. Well, let me tell you: I don’t know, but I’ll bet it’s a long story.