|Photo by Lucinda Higley|
We didn’t give Norah her toys back for about three weeks. Mostly because she was so well behaved without them that we often forgot we’d taken them away. She never once asked to have them back.
During those three weeks, Norah didn’t hold any resentment against her mother. And she still, obviously loved her more than me, like always.
One day I came home from work, and the living room was filled with swaddled babies again. I asked Mel why she gave them back, and she said, “I was starting to feel guilty. Norah’s been really sweet the past few weeks. She’d obviously earned them back. So we went out into the garage, and brought her toys out.”
Mel went on telling me that Norah didn’t really seem surprised by any of it. She acted like her toys were old friends she hadn’t seen in awhile and that Mel had brought them back to her.
Mel reminded her of why they were taken away, and Norah acted like she didn't remember any of it. Or perhaps she didn’t even care to remember the day they were taken away. This is one of the major reasons parenting small children is so frustrating. They only seem to remember about half of what you tell them, and what they do remember is often strange and distorted.
I went into the living room, and Norah was cradling a stuffed puppy that she’d wrapped in a blanket.
“What’s your baby’s name?” I asked.
Norah thought for a moment. She was holding a swaddled puppy in one hand. And as she thought, she mindlessly rubbed her other hand against her blue puffy dress.
“Monster Fart Pants,” She said.
“Wow!” I said. “What a beautiful name.”
“This is my favorite baby,” She said.
“Do you know who gave you that stuffed puppy,” I said.
Norah thought about it for a moment. Then she said, “Nope.”
“It was me. I brought it home for you after my trip to Washington DC. I saw it in a store, and I thought, Norah would love that because she loves puppies. So I brought it for you.”
Norah smiled. “I do remember. Then she dropped the stuffed puppy, and did one of her signature jumping hugs. This is where she, more or less, tries to tackle me. “You’re just a cute daddy,” she said. “The best daddy.”
I thought about Mel taking away Norah’s toys, and how it didn’t faze Norah. I thought about how Mel will most likely always be Norah’s favorite. I wanted to ask Norah if I was better than mommy because I’d gotten her that puppy a year earlier. I wanted to see if I could get her to say that I was the cooler parent. But it isn’t really about that. I need to remind myself that it isn’t a competition. It’s about having a significant relationship. It’s about making sure that your kids know that you love them.
So I didn’t say anything. I just let her give me a big hug, felt a warmth in my heart that only little kids can provide, and said, “I love you, too. You’re a sweet kid.”
And once the hug was done, I watched Norah pick the puppy back up and swaddle it, and thought, “Perhaps being second best isn’t so bad.”
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley