I don’t like to go out much. If I had my choice, most of my free time would be spent playing video games or doing work around the house. I’m a homebody and I like my body at home. Combine those two things and you have a guy who is usually content where he is.
If you listen to my daughter, you’d think she was the opposite. She spends her time moping around the house and groaning out, “I’m bored” in that brain-melting tone that makes me want to slam my head into the wall. Whenever she does, I step up with a million suggestions. I want to make her time productive in some way.
My wife was out at work for most of Sunday and, with both children on my watch, my options are always limited. With one kid, it’s fairly easy to find a daytime distraction. Once you start multiplying them, it gets trickier.
Olivia likes what she likes but her little brother Lucas is non-verbal with Autism and hates walking. It’s led to some difficult situations where we have to drag his whining carcass along, Weekend-at-Bernie’s Style, through a museum or street fair. Most of our activities are guessing games, but in the end, we make a choice. Sometimes it’s great. Sometimes it’s not. Getting to that choice, though, is quite the battle.
My daughter has a lot of my own traits which I never fully understood until I saw them reflected in another person. In this case, it’s all about the getting her first foot to step out the door. She second-guesses nearly every suggestion almost immediately and her reasoning is usually insane.
I’ll find myself on another generic Long Island event calendar website and scrolling through the random nautical-themed listings that don’t apply to us. My two fairly small children and I aren’t about to go clamming, wine-tasting, or speed-dating. After a wasted morning on the Google, I just return to the old faithfuls of fun time suggestions.
Want to see a movie?
Movies are boring.
Yeah, but only some movies are boring.
ALL movies are boring.
Ugh. I keep scrolling.
Hey. There’s a retro-gaming fair at the children’s museum.
I don’t really like retro gaming.
Oh yeah? What’s retro gaming?
Old games. I know what retro gaming is.
Smart kid. Lucky me. I accept it though. At least she knows what is she is rejecting this time. It’s not like she’s using that as a blanket excuse for anything.
How about the petting zoo? We can all go see animals.
Um, I don’t really like animals.
Is this kid for real?
Are you for real? You don’t like animals?
Um, not so much.
What are you? A Disney Villain?
You like animals. I know you do. Why are you saying you don’t like animals?
Long pause. I can imagine the cogs in her head turning.
I do like animals. Just not today.
You don’t like animals today?
Because today’s the day that the animals all turn evil on Long Island and eat little girls?
Her face cringes. I see that I am in jeopardy of putting false memories into her head that scares her away from petting zoos forever.
You’re killing me, Olivia. Killing me.
I spin back in my chair, scrolling past go-kart races that we can’t do with my son and library read-a-longs that she outgrew years ago. The irony is that we have a $20 gift card that she won at camp for a local mini-golf place. It’s the same mini-golf place that “all the kids hated”. The day she won it, she was miserable. You’d think she won a kick in the neck. My kid is hard to please. I am too, though. It’s another part of me I’m watching come to life before my eyes. I see how aggravating it can be.
All my son wants to do is sit in the living room with his iPad and YouTube kids app. All I want to do is sit in my office and finish various things. It’s my daughter who makes declarations of boredom while her mom’s out. She’s the reason we’re going out and yet, she’s the one who needs to be convinced. Good parenting doesn’t get much more thankless than this.
You don’t want to do anything? Is there nothing we can do?
We can go to the movies I guess.
And there we go. Back to the start. With an internal eye roll, I agreed and mentally prepared for bringing them both to the darkened theater that would surely put me to sleep. I made a point of repeating “12:30” in order to get her just as prepped as I was for go-time. Come the turn of the meridian, it would be off to the movies we would go.
That was the plan…until noon. Suddenly, she remembered that we had movies and ice cream at home. This on-again, off-again plan was off again. Without warning, the movie theater was out and our Netflix Watchlist was on. She seemed happy with the idea that we wouldn’t have to go out. I was confused and, surprisingly, a bit disappointed at first. All we had left to decide on was food.
So, are we still going out for lunch?
No, Daddy. We can go out for dinner instead.
I wasn’t falling for that.
Yeah, until right before dinner. Then you’ll change your mind.
I won’t! I promise.
I didn’t believe her. She had been difficult before, but this time was different. She was against doing anything all morning but wanted to go out at night? It didn’t make sense. So I asked her.
How can you promise? What’s going to be so different about dinner?
Then, in the sweetest voice she had used all day, she said…
Because then mommy will be home and we can all go out together.
Yeah. Hit me like a Hallmark movie. I expected snow to start falling and our cats to start singing “Cats In the Cradle”. My mind’s eye morphed her eleven-year-old face into the tiny one I remember from her toddling preschool years. In the span of two minutes, she had gone from irritating to relatable to adorable. I gave her a big hug.
You got it. Let’s watch our movie and then we’ll all go out as family tonight.
And that’s what we did.
Sometimes she’s like me in ways that I don’t want her to be. Sometimes she’s like me in ways that I do. Then there are times that I wish I was more like her. This was one of those times. And those are the best times of all.