Have you ever referred to spending time with your own kids as “babysitting”? Well my wife hates it when I do that, understandably so. I am working on it, trying hard but I did trip up recently.
As the 2019 working year came to a conclusion and Christmas was approaching, I was casually asked what plans I had in place for the Summer break. Surrounded by the franticness of budget chasing, setting email bounce backs, changing voicemail greetings and arranging break up drinks I non-thinkingly replied that I was babysitting my daughter for a week.
The people at work didn’t care, or even notice. But I felt bad. Not because I am (in any way) scared of my lovely, understanding and forgiving wife who would no doubt find out about my ghastly indiscretion – but because I was genuinely looking forward to it. Super excited in fact to hang with my five-year-old girl.
Mrs DD and our son were spending a week interstate which paved the way for some serious daddy/daughter times ahead.
I built her a checklist to put on the fridge full of fun activities for her to cross off once we experienced them together. The genius of this concept was that it also acted as an inspiration for me if my aging brain ran dry for ideas in response to a child claiming “I’m bored!” It included things like going for a swim, doing her nails, riding bikes, play dates, tea parties, movie nights and visiting the library.
It proved to be very successful.
Like all children, our two change often and regularly. They develop and evolve, they challenge us and even regress, they go through phases – some good, some horrible. This week presented the opportunity for me to get to know my youngest, my precious baby girl. At least the version of her as it currently existed.
They develop and evolve, they challenge us and even regress, they go through phases – some good, some horrible.
The eight days I spent alone with my daughter was not like any other time we had ever shared, and it would be like no other week of my life.
There were many lessons for me to learn.
She likes it when I dance
We had five dance parties. Five! I am not ashamed to admit that I grew to enjoy them so much that I started initiating them. The credits for Lego Movie 2 is all the reason I needed. Other prompts included Taylor Swift via YouTube cast to our smart TV with the volume cranked or just a simple Apple Music playlist with all her favourites including Dance Monkey. We would have looked awesome to anyone walking past.
She likes it when I play make-believe
I realised that my daughter does not get many moments when her dad “pretends”. In fact from her perspective I am probably a rather serious character, maybe even dull and boring. But for one week, I was very much into make-believe. I was a king, a cafe owner, an actor, a superhero, a dog, a kitchen ninja, a bear, a wizard and even a pretend Dad to name just a few from memory. I nailed all the roles with my unique stylings and you could not wipe the smile off her little face.
She likes it when I run
This one surprised me, everywhere we went, she wanted me to run… so I did. Except inside or around cars, that was the rule. We ran when taking the bins out, we ran outside the shopping centre, we ran up the back stairs, we even ran along the beach. This was an added lesson, it turns out that my daughter is already an excellent runner. With me on the higher softer sand she narrowly eclipsed me on the beach over 200m, more than once. Little aths here we come!
She likes it when I listen
Our eight-year-old son, our only other child has autism, and thus we are well aware that our daughter does not get the attention that she deserves. This is the trait I admire most about her, she is a warrior when it comes to managing our family unit. So in his absence she seemed to bask in the glow of the spotlight. I was all-ears, often. She was not used to that sort of uninterrupted focus, and she sure made the most of it. She shared more than I expected, her ideas, her friends, her feelings. At one point I think I heard a made-up story about a unicorn for nearly ten minutes, non-stop.
This is the trait I admire most about her, she is a warrior when it comes to managing our family unit.
She likes it when I look after her
As it happens, my daughter hurts herself often. I sort of knew this but never experienced the prolonged period of time required to illustrate it definitively. We went through more band-aids in one week than we usually consume in three months. She is still young enough to believe in the healing power of little kisses, cool face washers and lollipops. She knows how to score a shoulder ride when he legs start to ache and she really appreciates tales of protection at bedtime. She has every right to believe there is nothing for her to worry about when I am around.
She likes it when she burps
My five-year-old daughter is the best belcher in our household, and that is saying something. She reaffirmed this claim to fame while half the family were absent. Similar to the aforementioned dance parties, I would try and join in. But when it comes to burping, she shines, just like running on the beach. However, burps always generate laughter, from both of us, so it has to be a good thing right?
She is still young enough to believe in the healing power of little kisses, cool face washers and lollipops.
She is more like me than I knew
She hates mornings, she loves tomato sauce and playing basketball, she watches her favourite movies repeatedly, she gets right into video games and she has trouble switching off her brain at night. I know her better now and certainly understand her a whole lot more.
In summary, not surprisingly a week alone with my growing daughter was heavenly, an absolute joy. We got through nearly every item on her holiday to-do list. We fell more in love with each other than imaginable and we ate more than the usual amount of pizza and ice cream.
I also learned that I am a sucker… and fine with it.
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