Today would be a great day to spend two hours at an urgent care facility to find out my daughter has a cold. Any day is a great day for that, right? Misery, here we come!
Or it could turn out to be a perfect reminder of what a treasure one’s daughter is. A time to figure out that a father’s role and relationship with his daughter changes significantly as she gets older, but his value in her life should not.
I slept only an hour before being rudely awakened by a splitting headache at 1am. Restless, painful sleep until 4am until I gave up and got out of bed. It couldn’t hurt any worse, might as well go into work. Besides, retail management at Christmas time has advantages to be gained by working at times when no one else is around.
The pain diminished throughout the day, and I felt like I’d accomplished enough to call it a day after 12 plus hours without a break. As I was walking to my truck to leave for home at an unusually “early” hour, my cell phone rang.
My 16 year-old Maddie had been battling terrible head congestion for days and was due to travel the following morning with her mother (who was running her first marathon). “Karrick, Maddie is running a fever now and I really think she needs to be checked out this evening. Can you take her to urgent care?” Yeah…..uh…..sure.
But I was selfishly irritated. Kristy couldn’t take her because she had a meeting at church. Gee, hadn’t we talked about telling people “no”. I didn’t feel good and I just wanted to go home.
But of course flu and strep have been spreading through our schools like wildfire. I knew she needed to be checked out as a precaution before traveling.
We arrived to the warzone of a waiting room after navigating the onslaught of cigarette smokers in the parking lot. Just enough empty seats for the two of us. It looked like we were in for a long wait (and we were).
We sat surrounded by awful sights and sounds of sickness and pain. Snort. Sniff. Moan. Cough. Cry. Yelling children.
“Sis, we’re gonna wait two hours to find out you have a cold.”
“Dad, have you noticed how angry the nurses look when they step out to call back the next patient?” Yep.
Did I mention that my daughter is 16 now and that I struggle terribly to carry on conversations with her? We had a nice 30 minute wild run of catching fish in the surf every cast back in July. We’ve had some good conversations about the appreciation and acquisition of classic vinyl records in the last 6 months. Past that, I’m just sort of “present” in recent history.
Make the most of the opportunity.
I noticed kids running wild doing things that she knew she would never be permitted to do at their age. Parents doing crazy things in the waiting room that she knew I would never do as a parent. So I texted her about it. We laughed. Not at people, but at the crazy circus environment that surrounded us. We found funny stuff on Twitter and shared laughs. She picked my brain countless times as she played a trivia game on her phone.
And since we knew her mom was in a church meeting, just for laughs, we sent her a text of our ordeal that included what some might consider colorful language.
We found common ground to talk about and laugh about. In a miserable place during a miserable wait, I enjoyed my daughter. She may have even enjoyed me and my odd sense of humor (and my trivia prowess).
As we walked out (it was a cold) at 8pm, I admitted to her that I was tired and that I’d been up since 4am and worked a 12 hour day. Her response reminded me what a treasure she is,
“Sorry dad, I know this is the last place you wanna be right now.”
I told her I was fine and that we need to be certain that she didn’t have flu or strep. What I didn’t tell her was that this was exactly where I needed to be at that moment.
Sometimes dads are at a loss about what to say or do. We just need to be ready to say “yes” sometimes and remember that life’s not about us. And even if we are a bit lost in the shuffle as our girls get older, the least we can do is be present.
Show up where we are needed or wanted. Show up for things that are important to our kids.
Being present doesn’t mean we always know what to do or what to say. It does mean that we choose to spend our time where our family is.
The daughter who spends her evenings in her room with little to share with her father on most evenings still finds great comfort in knowing that her father is always available in the next room.
Be there when she needs you.