Monday, September 14, 2009

Don't Go Breaking My Heart

"Life is what happens while you are busy making plans." -John Lennon

I've finally done it. Done what no parent ever wants to do. Done what no parent intends to do. But it's something we all end up doing anyway, either directly or indirectly.

I broke my little girl's heart. Even writing that sentence makes me sad. And I didn't even know it until it was too late.

Now, there have been times when my choices as a parent have caused my daughter to cry. Upset her. Thrown her into a fit of rage. The refusal of a cookie, the enforcement of bedtime, the washing of the hair (she hates this). But in those instances, I wasn't hurting her feelings. I was annoying her, frustrating her, thwarting her. I was getting in her way. That's what parents do.

But this time was different and as soon as I was made aware of it, I did everything I could to correct it, no matter what time it was.

I was rushing to get out of the house on Sunday evening to go door-to-door on our block with one of our neighbors. We're planning our street's annual block party together, and we were handing out forms, collecting money, drumming up support. In the flurry of getting everything together and getting out the door, I apparently did not say goodbye to my daughter.

And she was heartbroken. And I had no idea.

Upon my return more than an hour and a half later, I had asked my wife how it went putting Penelope to sleep. "Oh, my God, she was crying hysterically after you left." My heart sank. "She wanted to kiss you goodbye and you forgot." My heart shuddered. "Then when I put her to bed she didn't want me to sing any songs because you weren't there." My heart broke.

"I told her you would go up there when you got home and kiss her goodnight."

This was my shot at redemption.

Luckily, Penelope was still awake in her crib when I got up there. She held no grudge, animosity, no lingering ill-will toward me. She smiled and instantly requested a kiss and a song. We sang two together. 'Hush, Little Baby' followed by 'That's Amore.' There's nothing quite like your 2 1/2 year-old belting out a Dean Martin tune.

It was magical.

She knew she had me wrapped around her finger because she then requested more water - with ice, no less - and two books. She also asked that I go get the dog so she could kiss her goodnight. I stopped it at that.

Nonetheless, I had redeemed myself. Ensured that her final memory of me that day was a positive one. Restored myself to my rightful place in her pantheon of heroes. All the time, recognizing that my place there is tenuous and undeserving, if not temporary.

Her heart is mended. Mine, on the other hand, will always ache with the first time I broke hers.

Then again, she'll be breaking mine a lot more in the years to come, now, won't she?

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