I am eating a cheeseburger, sipping beer, looking at a beachside restaurant full of families and kids.
There’s a band playing. They couldn’t be any worse if they detuned their instruments and started making bodily noises over the microphone.
But the children are loving the music. Some are dancing. Others are screaming, “Look, Daddy! Daddy! Look, Daddy! Daddy!”
I love kids.
I have always wondered how people with children enjoy their lives. I look around at a table of my middle-aged friends and I am thinking of this very thing.
These people seem to have more responsibility than the rest of us civilians. I’m fact, they’re so responsible that they can’t even focus on a conversation—at least not fully.
They are too busy looking from the corners of their eyes, waiting for catastrophe, or a screaming toddler.
My friend Billy, for instance, is trying to tell a story, but his sentences are incoherent because he keeps diverting his eyes toward his kids.
“Hey,” he begins. “You remember when we were fifteen…”
Billy turns his head.
“…And there was that water tower….”
Another head turn.
“…With the Hallelujah Chorus and lima beans…”
Then he jerks his head and shouts, “PUT YOUR SISTER DOWN, RIGHT NOW! RIGHT NOW, I SAID! DON’T MAKE ME COME OVER THERE! I SWEAR, I WILL WHIP YOUR SHINY LITTLE…”
My friend Nathan tells me:
“The thing about kids is, they say ‘Daddy’ about fifteen hundred times per day. It’s enough to make you nuts.”
“Yeah,” another friend says. “And I wish my kids would just let me go pee in peace.”
My friends’ wives sit at the other side of the table, rocking babies, talking. My wife is with them.
My wife and I exchange a glance. We are the only childless couple here tonight. We smile at each other.
She rolls her eyes at me. We make these looks at each other because people with kids talk ONLY about kids. They breathe Playskool and Tonka Trucks. We are outsiders.
Still, I can relate a little. If anyone even mentions the word “dog” I launch into a story about when my bloodhound once found an expired silicone breast implant, then brought it home, placed it upon my bed, and squashed it all over my pillow.
Then I show cellphone pictures.
A little girl comes wandering toward us. She is the daughter of my friend. She wants to be in her daddy’s arms. He holds her against his chest, she falls asleep. She is drooling on him.
I wonder what that’s like.
When my wife and I first got married we thought we would have a kid. Maybe even a few. People in our church kept asking.
“When’re you two gonna put a cinnamon bun in the oven?” Miss Willie would ask, week after week.
And I would only smile. But it wasn’t in the cards. I don’t regret that, but sometimes I think about it.
The truth is, my childhood was not pretty. I’ve never been sure that sharing such dysfunctions with an innocent kid was a good idea. This world is hard enough as it is.
Still, there’s something about watching a child jump into Daddy’s arms.
“Count yourself lucky,” said Billy, “at least you get to wake up at noon if you want.”
“Yep,” said another. “And you don’t have someone shouting, ‘Hey Daddy!’ all day.”
Long ago, I thought the same way all young men think. Maybe one day I would have a kid with red hair. Maybe he would be a junior. Or maybe we’d have a daughter.
Sometimes, my wife and I would fall asleep talking about it.
“What if,” my wife would say, “he has grayish-green eyes like his father.”
“Yeah,” I would add. “Or brown eyes, like her mother.”
“You like the name Rose?”
“Sounds like one of the Golden Girls.”
“I like the name Rose.”
“I like the oldest Golden Girl the best.”
“Not me, I like Blanche.”
“Sophia, that was the oldest one’s name, she was the best Golden Girl. I’d name a kid Sophia.”
“I think you’d make a good father.”
“You’d be the best mother anyone ever saw.”
I would fall asleep thinking about teaching a kid baseball, or showing a boy how to bait a treble hook. And anyway, I don’t know why I’m telling you this.
I am interrupted by a toddler walking toward me. Her name is Marie. Marie has more freckles than I’ve ever seen. She is cuter than a duck in a hat.
“Hey Mister Sean,” comes her high-pitched voice, cutting through the sound of a god-awful rock and roll band. “Can I sit with you? This band’s too loud.”
“Sure,” I say.
Marie crawls into my lap, and she’s asleep in a matter of minutes. Soon, there is drool all over me, and the face of an angel against my chest.
It can’t be all that bad being called Daddy.