Gripping the steering wheel, I hung my head. Heartrending sobs from the back of the car filled my senses, as I watched my wife and seven year-old daughter drive away in the other car. “I want Mama! I want Mama!” came the sobs. Turning around, I noticed my three year-old’s face had now taken on a reddish hue, glistening with wetness. She looked back at me through angry tears. “I want Mama!” she repeated.
“Maybe you could take her for ice cream?” my wife had suggested just before pulling away to take my seven year-old on a special outing to a movie. My oldest had gone to a sleepover with a friend. So I now sat in the driver’s seat, facing down three hours of alone time with this precious three year-old.
I tried reasoning, turning the tides. “Hey sweetheart, we are going to have special ‘Papa time!’ Want to go for ice cream?”
“No! I want Mama!”
So much for that idea.
Putting the car in drive, I slowly pulled into the road and swung out of the rendezvous parking lot. My mind raced, and as we drove, a voice tried to explain things to me: Remember, said the voice, you don’t spend a whole lot of alone time with her. It’s usually family time. She’s upset now, but she’ll be alright. More sobs emanated from the back. I wondered if we would be alright. And I was struck by the fact that even though I’m the father of three, I still feel these moments of intense angst. “Come on,” I thought silently to myself, “Get a grip. Of course we’ll be alright… won’t we?”
We drove on. I tried again, “Hey honey, how about we go to dinner?”
“You want some fries?”
Suddenly the sobbing ceased. A beat. “And chicken!” A pause. “And ice cream!” came the sweet voice from the carseat.
“Okay,” I answered. “That sounds great, honey. Let’s do that.”
We’d be alright. And we were.