Today the plan is for Becky and Cleo Jr to pick me up at the Treehouse. The three of us will go to Books & Books so Becky and I can take care of the “have to’s” and pick up our paychecks, then we’ll hit the road.
They arrive early, and we end up eating breakfast at the Treehouse. When I ask Cleo Jr. how many times he’s been to Disney World, he runs into the kitchen where Becky is making coffee. He beckons her close, then loses the thread.
“A lot,” he blurts, running back to the table to finish his toast.
It’s Cleo Jr’s second time in the Treehouse, and it’s better because he knows me. The first time we met, that scared little look on his face broke my heart. I put my blocky glasses on and he broke into a smile. This guy’s alright, the smile said.
Becky’s family - two sisters and her parents - traveled to Disney World at least twice a year while she was growing up. It’s only natural she’d pass this legacy on, and understandable that Cleo Jr. would lose count.
Becky isn’t sure herself how many time he’s been. Nine? Ten? More than me, anyway.
A side note before we leave the Treehouse – Ikea’s DOCKSTA table is ideal for a bachelor in cramped quarters, solid and borderline sleek. To a toddler, this round piece of poured plastic and wood laminate looks like a giant toy.
On our way to the bank, hunger made Cleo Jr a bit whiny. Keeping Cleo Jr entertained on the job made Becky a bit exhausted. Waiting for the light to change, standing on the sidewalk, I held Cleo Jr in my left arm while Becky leaned into me on the right. Holding them both, I felt like I’d been wandering the dessert my entire life and finally found an oasis. I felt like a peg snug in a board. I felt . . . home.
Just in case, I waited until after the weekend was over to say anything.
It was a lot more exhausting than I thought it would be. Parenting, I mean. Any selfish chucklehead can have a baby, but to try and make sure you’re not raising another selfish chucklehead is a lot of work. I won’t get into maneuvering around his moods or reigning in his exuberance or trying to turn whining into cheer. Suffice to say, people who go to Magic Kingdom without children are, in some sense, kidding themselves.
The vacation in Orlando done, my biceps ache from the weight of carrying a five-year-old. My mind whirls with fear over what kind of influence I’ll have. My heart swells, thinking of this opportunity I’ve been given, this life I wouldn’t have if not for Becky. I imagine I’ll overcome my fear and hesitancy, gain confidence and take a more active role. We’ll see how it goes.
Just over a year ago, my friend Mark told me that I’d never be the perfect father. He said our fathers weren’t perfect, and we’ll never be. You just need to love your children and apologize when you make mistakes.
That’s the kind of dadly advice I’d expect from a great father. I wish I’d thought of it.