As we leave the house for summer camp one morning, Nariah asks can we take her American Girl doll to Maliyah’s house that evening as she’s going over there after camp to stay until Toya gets home from work. I have tickets to the advance screening of the Lone Ranger, but its in Tysons Corner and the “rules” say be there by 7, so I would have to leave prior to Toya making it home. Those familiar with DC metro traffic will know that from Germantown to Tysons in rush hour is not a good idea.
“Sure thing baby, matter of fact… I’ll get Emily and put her in the car so we’ll already have her when I pick you up and we won’t even have to go home first!”
“Yeah daddy!!! Thanks!!!”
Literally sitting in traffic with co-worker Lamont (going to the movie also), on the way to pick up Nariah (which is about 30 mins in the opposite direction of the movies during rush hour) and it is not moving at all. We have to be at daycare by 6pm and it is not looking good. Kim, (Maliyah’s mom), calls me around 5:45 “Hey Ryan… just letting you know, I’m home now so you can drop Nariah off whenever!”
“Oh ok cool, but we’re still far away and traffic’s not moving… ”
“Well, did you want me to go pick up Nariah? I’m just down the street”
“Hmmm… that actually might work! I think you’re still on the list. I’ll still head that way just in case but I’ll try to call and verify”
So we’re now we’re driving towards the camp and slowing down by each exit in case Kim calls and gives the green like for us to make our U-turn exit. We finally get the “OK, got her” confirmation and proceed for the next exit. I ask to talk to Nariah to apologize for not being there and to wish her lots of fun with Maliyah. And this is where it began. I don’t have the audio to give you, but if you know Nariah, please imagine full on sad face poutiness in a voice that would make you give her that last piece of bacon off your sandwich.
“Daddy??? I don’t have my American Girl doll…”
“I know baby, I’m so sorry, I’m stuck in traffic and Ms Kim was able to help and pick you up for me. You will be ok right?”
“But daddy, we were going to have an American Girl party…”
“I know baby, I can make it up to you, I promise!”
“Can’t you just still come? We can wait for you here….” (voice starts to crack at this point)
“Baby, we turned around and headed to VA right now, remember I’m going to the movies? I’m in traffic on the other side now”
“But daddy…. what if Ms Kim takes us to the movies and then you bring it outside to us?”
“Nariah, that’s a good idea but we’re not at a movie theater close to home. I’ll tell you what, what if I pick you up early tomorrow, and we go to Walmart and you can pick out whatever toy you want?!?!”
Nariah whimpers… “Please can we come get Emily? I really want her”
“I know Nariah… I feel really bad. What about Target? we can go there??”
At this point Lamont says “man down man down!“, and takes the phone from me to try to help the situation. I don’t know exactly what was said by Nariah, but he gave me the phone back looking defeated…
Playing this all back, Lamont gave me his version of what he saw. It was a boxing match, and Nariah had me on the ropes, and was beating me down. Body blow, upper cut, cross! He wanted to throw in the towel, but said I gave a look like “don’t do it coach!“. What he described as what happened next was that it was like the last 5 seconds of the final boxing round, I have no chance of winning the match, Nariah is still beating me down on the ropes, and then out of nowhere I pulled out the victory punch.
“Oooooh Nariah… I just thought of something… The mall that we are going to for the movies, that’s where the American Girl store is. What if I run down there, and buy you a new outfit and some accessories for Emily?”
You could hear the whole scenery change at Nariah’s location thru the phone. You could hear the sun coming out, the birds started chirping, babies were giggling in the background. I could tell by the voice that Nariah was smiling and what ever tears she had, they were not there anymore!
“Really daddy!?!?!!?!?!!? You can do that?!?!?!!?”
I looked at Lamont, and mouthed with a sigh of relief “WHEW!!!”
“Yes baby, I can do that, would that help make you feel better?”
“Ok, so I’ll call Ms Kim’s phone when I get there and I can describe to you the outfits and you tell me which ones you like ok?”
“Ok daddy, thank you daddy!!! Do you want to talk back to Ms Kim now?”
“Sure baby… I love you!”
“I love you too daddy! You’re still the best daddy ever!”
Kim comes on the phone and snickers “Soooooooo, how much did this doghouse set you back? hahaha”
When I got off the phone, Lamont says “Man… you got out of that one! I’m impressed! I thought you were out for the count! She had you on the ropes!”
“Who you telling? I thought I was done too. I don’t think I could’ve gone home tonight if I hadn’t come up with that idea!”
Kids… They make this all worth it! Find joy in the many ways to make your children smile… Knowing that the morning will be like Christmas morning to her when she sees what I got for her on the breakfast table will definitely mend the guilt.