Sometimes, I have to call off the dogs with these girls.
Remind Elise that her strikes on goal are a threat to girls’ dentition at times. Stress to Marie that it’s OK to show a little mercy. In practice. Peel Grace off a boy she’s face-planted into the carpet who can’t move his lips to say uncle.
I once had to go to work after a wrestle session with a littler Elise and Marie that got a bit spirited, and left me with a swollen face and minor bleeding of the mouth. It wasn’t always this way, though.
I wasn’t always bracing for them, hoping they’d not break too much spirit of their rivals, praying they wouldn’t crush each other when their horseplay got personal. One Easter, I was the dad afraid his kid would get knocked over at the egg hunt.
So, rookie dad wasn’t as cool as old-pro grizzled-Brett Favre-bearded dad like you read about today.
I used a disgustingly high voice when I spoke to toddler Elise.
When she fell asleep on my shoulder or in her stroller on a walk on my watch I felt as if I’d somehow mastered all of the universe’s hidden tricks as neatly as a diaper-genie rollup. I had no clue.
Once, I left her baby’s pacifier on the roof of my car.
When Elise’s toy flew off and got crushed by another car, I panicked, overreacted, then plotted out an entire scheme to buy its replacement online and sneak it back on her dolly while she napped so she’d never know.
Yeah, I’ve learned a lot since then.
For her first walking Easter egg hunt, I was still that high-pitched, delusional, overreacting dad I often like to take jabs at today. The hunt took place in an open field in Tallahassee, Fla., in an open field of lush green grass.
Elise bounced between her mom and me, her basket in hand, sweet brown curls waving in the Florida sun.
Wait just a minute …
Then, I looked up. I saw the other kids making the same trek. Hey wait. Did that little boy just give Elise the stink eye? What’s that girl looking at? And you, dad … you got a problem, bro?
Suddenly, the sweet spring stroll to the eggs became a teeth-gritting tour with darting eyes and quick size-ups of others’ kids.
Yeah, my kid could take yours. I swear dude, if your kid gets within 10 feet of my kid … have you ever ridden in an ambulance? A kindly person – I can’t even remember, man or woman? – probably separated them into age groups.
They ushered the smaller children to the front, the bigger monsters to the back, in a vain effort to make this ‘fair for everyone.’
Go get ’em Elise. I got your back. At about the time I realized I was preening like a prize fighter before the first bell and that “Hell’s Bells” wasn’t playing over a loudspeaker, I looked down at those sweet brown curls and remembered why I was there.
That the kids lined up with her smiled and hoped and scoped out the brightly-colored eggs sprinkled all over the lawn.
Plenty, for everyone. I don’t remember how many eggs wound up in her basket that day, or anyone else’s. I remember the Easter Bunny going overboard with a dozen stuffed Furbies and enough candy to fill a pinata.
An army of egg hunters
I recall a dude in with a high-pitched voice oohing and ahhing over her basket on video.
Elise grew bigger and became one of the kids who darted around the field to beat smaller kids to more eggs. Marie came along, then Grace and each of them scaled the ranks of the egg hunters.
They grew from the bumbling toddlers to the darting grade-schoolers with overflowing baskets to the kid who decides to slow down, take a bumbling toddler by the hand, and help her discover egg after egg after egg.
Today, those big girls help their nephew and niece find the good egg hiding places.
They don’t scowl at the competition, and I don’t remember a single tussle with a like-sized kid over a plastic egg. Even a dad can let the eggs drop where they may. It’s easy when you realize there are no dogs to call off.
Even a dad knows that if his kid gets knocked down on an Easter morning egg hunt, there’s soft grass to fall down in.