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A Sleepy Celebration

May 22, 2017
By Rick Epstein - Dad's Eye View , OVParent

The problem with Father's Day is that it's hard to maintain everyone's enthusiasm for a whole day of celebrating fatherhood. But if conditions are just right, fatherhood can be celebrated fully in just a few minutes. Here's how:

I get home from work at about midnight. On the kitchen table is something 9-year-old Marie has been working on. It appears to be a quirky alphabet book. "A is for Angry bees. B is for Boxing kangaroos. C is for Crying caterpillars. D is for Dancing bears." She has gotten as far as "R is for Reliable walruses."

The living room is in disarray. Every chair and sofa has lost its cushions to a housing project - a cave dwelling has been assembled and draped with blankets to hold it together. It is the work of 6-year-old Sally, with 2-year-old Wendy sure to have been her willing tenant.

Upstairs, I take off my shoes to pay the kids a silent visit. I do this partly to re-establish contact after a long day away, and partly because I know that in 20 years I'd give anything to do what I'm about to do - sneak into the bunk room and kiss my sleeping children.

I find Wendy sleeping in the lower berth. I drink in her youthful good looks. It's so nice to see her not wanting something.

Small in sleep, she reminds me that there's only 30 pounds of her. Awake, she is much larger. Whether she's giving herself elbow-length gloves made of yogurt, or holding up an earthworm and demanding in her Tarzan grammar, "Where him legs?" Wendy is always pressing, questing and pushing the limits. She is 2. I kiss her on the nose.

Marie has her own bed, but lately she'd been sharing the top bunk with Sally. Marie has her ancient teddy bear in the crook of her arm and a slight smile on her face, dreaming maybe of flying penguins or moody skunks. Tomorrow, she'll be trying to complete that literary project, heading naively into the treacherous shoals that are littered with the wrecks of thousands of alphabet books - all come to grief in the impossible shallows of XYZ.

And beyond tomorrow? Well, I could do my own fretful alphabet book for her: A is for Adolescence. B is for Boyfriends. C is for her Children. D is for her obsolescent Dad... It's a good thing that kids can't see around the next curve. Standing on their bunk ladder, I reach across Sally and caress Marie's nearly inaccessible head.

Sally is lying on her back, with her head cradled on her hands, her elbows sticking out, a caricature of relaxation. Repose looks strange on Sally. She's usually up to something.

At 7 o'clock this morning, I was downstairs reading an old Nancy Drew book to Marie. We heard someone get up and go into the bathroom right overhead. "Let's be detectives," I told Marie, "and figure out who's awake."

"Well," said Marie, "it's not Wendy because she never goes into the bathroom without making a fuss." Then we heard a marble hit the floorboards and roll. Marie and I looked at each other and said: "Sally."

Sally would tell us later: "When I went to bed, I hid a marble in my sleeve, pertending it's a jewel, and I forgot it was there." Of course.

In the darkness, I kiss her cheek, half hoping she'll wake up and share her 6-year-old magic with a tired 43-year-old. But she only stirs, and I sneak out.

I brush my teeth, put on pajamas, and get into bed beside my sleeping wife. While the kids look like they're sailing through Dreamland, Betsy looks like there should be a referee in a black bowtie standing over her counting to 10. Mostly thanks to her, my life is pretty good.

See? That's how to celebrate fatherhood quickly, yet thoroughly. I call it quality time with well-behaved children, and you can enjoy some any night.

Rick Epstein can be reached at



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