Adventures of a Single Dad
Adventures of a Single DadOne Loving Father Makes the Most of Fatherhood on His Own
By Michael Ferguson
By far, spending time with my kids comprises the greatest moments of my existence. It defines me. It’s what I live for. Now that I’m divorced and living in the Florida Panhandle, my kids seem to view their visits more like vacations than simply time spent with Daddy.
There’s so much to do here. Being sandwiched between Panama City and Destin makes it easy to plan our activities. But sometimes it’s the unexpected moments that provide the most lasting memories. And the first unexpected moment happened during their first evening with me.
I’d noticed that since arriving, my 6-year-old daughter’s finger had been in constant contact with a loose tooth. And with a great big smile, she announced that it was finally out. She handed me her prize, and I washed it off before joining her by the bathroom mirror.
Did I mention that some unexpected pleasures aren’t pleasurable at all?
Terror. That’s what I opened the door to find. Sheer terror.
“Daddy, there’s a hole. There’s a hole in my head. I’m bleeding.” My daughter was indeed bleeding, and there was a hole.
“Darn, that sure is a mighty deep hole, and wow, that sure is a lot of blood.” Now granted, I did not say it out loud, I simply thought it. But she seemed to be gargling red, and soaked tissue was thrown about the floor.
The panic in my daughter’s voice was contagious. I knew stopping it would take some real creativity. I interrupted her crying with my calming voice.
“There’s supposed to be a hole, honey,” I told her. “That’s where your tooth was before it came out.” My ability to apply reason was astonishing, at least to me. She wasn’t buying it.
“It’s never been like this,” she told me. “I think we need to call somebody. It’s an emergency.” The fear in my daughter’s voice was beginning to scare me. She had a penchant for being a bit dramatic, but there was an awful lot of blood present for such a tiny tooth. I was beginning to feel the panic. Perhaps it was because as I walked past my 8-year-old son, he sat on the couch repeating a mantra: “I’m scared. I’m scared. I’m scared.”
I guess hearing his sister complain about having a hole in her head and seeing all the blood may have had an effect on him. As he rocked back and forth and as my daughter bounced from one wall to another, pulling a towel away from her mouth to demonstrate that more blood had been expelled, I reached for the phone to call an authority – their mother.
Perhaps walking to the other room, shielding the phone with my hand and talking in a low, fearful voice didn’t instill much confidence in my children. But I was about to crack. It was all becoming too much for me. I gave their mother the dirty details, and we somehow worked things out as the bleeding subsided. Thankfully, Mother Nature had a way of sealing the wound in short fashion. I’m sure I would have looked like an ill-equipped father charging into the emergency room demanding treatment for a fallen baby tooth.
Soon enough, my kids were in a different mood. In fact, so much so that they were discussing economic principles, and I was learning something about inflation. It seems that the nickels and dimes from my own Tooth-Fairy days had inflated to a full $5 in today’s terms. Rather than research the Fed chairman’s recent reports on the subject, I decided to relent and find my wallet. It was fun. I’d be playing Tooth Fairy for the night. I felt such a sense of … oh no, I only had a 10- and a 20-dollar bill. I guess the cost of enamel was controlled by big oil too, and $10 would be the new going rate.
With a new lesson in dentistry behind us, we settled in and watched a movie. Everything was perfect. The evening with my kids was fast becoming a classic one.
Nightfall approached. Being divorced isn’t easy when you’re so much in love with your little kiddies, and time spent with them is priceless. Thus, even at night, I can’t stand to be away from them. Since they feel the same way, we happily piled together to sleep in my big king-sized bed.
Both my son and daughter fought vehemently to be the one sleeping next to Daddy, so the only solution was for me to sleep in the middle. For reasons I’ll soon explain, I petitioned for the outside edge. I told them they could take turns sleeping next to me, flipping a coin to see who took the first night in the most coveted of positions. They weren’t having it, so in the middle I slept. Now, to the problem.
They converge on me at night. I mean, they push. It’s like a black hole exists there, or since we’re in Florida, maybe it’s more like a sinkhole. I don’t know, but every bit of them, every stitch of their existence finds me. It’s flattering. I feel loved. I really do. It’s just that I can’t sleep at night with the impending pressure their bodies exert on me.
During their last visit, I found that I could just wait it out and go to sleep in peace in the other room once they had fallen asleep. But truth be told, I missed them at night. So during this visit, I came up with the perfect solution. Well, I thought so, at least.
I found that if I lay across the bed at their feet, all was good. The positioning was fantastic because their little feet were well out of reach. I got to sleep, and I slept well. It was great. Dreams were sound and happiness was found deep within the peacefulness of REM sleep. Then I awoke.
I don’t know exactly what it was that tore me from my sleep, or why. I guess it was the fact that I was wedged between my mattress and the footboard – solidly, I might add – and my arms were asleep. They were tingling. And I was stuck.
It was no real mystery as to how I’d ended up there. My daughter’s legs and feet had attacked me from the east and my son was strategically positioned to the west. Together they’d pushed me precisely into my predicament, down in the valley. Even my face was squished, making my lips protrude. It was difficult even to cry for help. I was beginning to wonder if it was the end of me.
Then I heard my daughter. “Daddy?” She’d found me. I was alive, and she’d found me in time. I was exuberant, albeit in a position where I couldn’t celebrate. My daughter woke her brother, and the two excavated me in the nick of time.
Without hesitation, we analyzed the situation and solved the problem by wedging extra pillows in the cavernous space between the mattress and the footboard, and sleep was found again. Although for the rest of the night, I did have nightmares about falling, arms flailing wildly during my descent. I must admit, it was rather scary.
“Daddy, why were you screaming last night?” My daughter’s question reminded me of those nightmares, but at least I had slept. Following her question, my daughter’s hand swept under her pillow and hit the jackpot. “Ten dollars!” she shouted with glee. My son litigated how unfair it was that he never got that much from the Tooth Fairy, but without my help, they reasoned that it must have had something to do with being in Florida. With a smile, I agreed.
Being rested, or at least happy to be alive, we went out to find adventure. I’m always amazed at the pace at which kids can experience emotional highs and lows. Watching my children pout is not my favorite pastime, so while walking by some shops, luckily, I saw the toy store first. My only defense was to distract them. I knew that if they caught sight of the store, they would have fits not only to pay a visit, but also to buy something.
“Look,” I said, pointing to the other side of the street. “Look, a balcony!” I exclaimed. I couldn’t contain my excitement, and the children’s attention was mine.
“What?” they asked, unable to share my admiration for what a special balcony it truly was.
I rushed off, increasing my pace and pointing up at the glorious railing. My obedient kids followed and strained to understand.
“Look, the balcony’s railing is painted green!” My words lacked substance, but the emphatic nature in my delivery inspired smiles and wonderment. Most importantly, we were past the toy store and my pocket remained full. Well, not full, but better off.
Having the kids with me was an adventure, and my smile widened into my heart more and more. Taking glimpses over at them and watching them when they had no idea my eyes were upon them was a treasure for me.
One of my favorite things about being around my kids is the innocence they exhibit and their unique perspectives of the world. In Seaside, we walked upon a free concert, my daughter asked if the Beatles were playing. I wondered how bad the summer traffic would have been with that occurrence.
Another little gem occurred while I was taking them back to Louisiana. We exited at a Panhandle rest stop, and there was a poster there picturing poisonous snakes of Florida. Next to the poster were pictures of a number of missing people. My daughter asked if the poisonous snakes of Florida were responsible for the missing people. Where do you get perspectives like that? Children. And I love it. I love my children more than anything else in the world. And I can’t wait for their next visit with Daddy.