Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"[I'm] the best daddy in the world!"

So said Grace this afternoon. Ahh, but there is a reason, you see. There is always a cause and effect.

The story begins . . .

I was driving home from daycare, by way of the elementary school. I had a van full of adolescents--three of them mine, counting the infant plus the neighbor girl. I turned the car through the neighborhood streets and spied in front of me--approximately two blocks away?--what might have been a rent-a-ambulance.

But, no . . . I thought. No siren or lights. So, what else could it be (I thought naively)? I already knew what it was. Though the chatter in the van prevented me from hearing its siren song . . . I knew.

The vehicle pulled over to the side of the road, resting along the curb. A tell-tale sign, to be sure. But I remained quiet as I drove up on it from behind. (Would the kids notice, I wondered? Ha! Another moment of naiveté.) A kid approached the vehicle as it waited alongside the curb. And as I got closer, the sound grew noticeable. And then . . . the kids in the van noticed.

"Is that the ICE CREAM TRUCK?" one of them asked. Though I kept my eyes on the road as I drove, I imagined two other adolescent heads turning with laser precision toward the vehicle ahead. I stayed quiet, knowing that whatever I said was moot. It was the ice cream truck, indeed and for certain.

But, what was I to do? I was on the road, laden with children--one of them an infant. I couldn't just stop the van, step out, and by the way . . . who had money--besides me, of course?

I asked this of the adolescents. "Who has money? Do you? Or you? And what about you?" (I'm not even your parent, I thought to the third one. What do I do with you?) So, as the ice cream truck served another customer, I drove on by--but slowly, making sure that sugar-crazed children didn't dart in front of me.

The dismay from the back of the van was strong. 

But I had a plan. I knew that if they had the ability, they would already be throwing themselves out of the unopenable windows of the van, desperate for the ice cream I was heedlessly driving by. But I had to get the van parked. They had to get their money. And I had a baby to control.

So, we drove on, leaving the ice cream truck behind. And the adolescents wailed in dismay. They thought their chance was gone. They wondered how I could be so heartless, so cruel, so adult. 

I turned the van onto our street and pulled into the driveway. I knew the ice cream truck was back there, slowly trolling for kids, approaching like a shark . . . . I told the kids to get inside and grab their wallets. They could buy their own ice cream. They dashed off and somehow located their wallets in no time--a feat almost unheard of in our family. Somehow, without my knowledge, negotiations were made with the neighbor girl. They would take care of her. No hunger would be left behind on this day--regular diet or familial expectations be damned. I stayed quiet.

They dashed back out of the house with gleeful eyes and a bounce in their steps. But should they wait in front of our house? Would the ice cream truck turn to the right and come down our street or would it head on straight? To be safe, they headed up to the corner that I had turned on, paralleling the path of the truck, waiting and watching as it approached.

I put the baby in the stroller and wandered up the street to meet them just as the truck arrived. I gave no input on what they would buy, nor worried about the price. Their money, their choice. In the end, a fudge bar, an ice cream sandwich, and a rainbow-flavored snow cone (with a gumball buried at the bottom!) were chosen.

I was praised . . . and rightly so!

Though this moment of happy satisfaction would later come to an end, it wasn't due to ice cream or hunger. More the common vagaries of young girls reacting to disagreements. But those moments would come later. For now, I was the best daddy in the world.

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