Scene: 8 a.m. Early summer. Daughter’s room. Sunlight glinting through drawn shades. Daughter buried under her covers. Unmoving. Father enters.
Me: Knock knock!
Me: Knock knock! Anybody alive in here?
Her: (Slight shifting under covers.)
Me: Goooooooood Morning! Rise and shine! It’s going to be a beautiful day!
Her: (Muffled grunt.)
Me: I don’t know about you, but I want to get out there and enjoy this spectacular weather! Who’s with me?!?!?!
Me: What’s that? Take your pillow off your face, I can’t hear you.
Her: (Drawing pillow off face and throwing) GO AWAY, IT’S NOT MORNING YET.
Me: (Ducking) What’re you talking about, Silly Face? It’s 8 in the morning!!!
Her: I swear to God.
Me: OK, OK. You need a few minutes to wake up. I totally get it. Take your time. I can come back in a few minutes.
Her: Or never. (Collapsing back on bed)
Scene: An hour later. Same locale.
Me: Knock knock! Take two! Goooooood morning!
Me: Honey, I told you I can’t hear you when you have a pillow on your face.
Her: (mumbled from beneath pillow) Why do you hate me?
Me: Come on, kiddo, it’s summer. Are you just going to sleep the day away? No way! Not on my watch. Hey, I know! LET’S GO HIKING!!!
Her: No hiking. More sleeping (rolls over and attempts to burrow deeper).
Me: Hmm. You know what you need? A hearty breakfast. Pancakes! I’ll make pancakes!!!! A big stack of pancakes is the best way to start a summer morning off right. Right?!?
Her: Yes. Go make pancakes. Take your time.
Me: Alright!!! GO TEAM PANCAKES!!!!
Scene: Another hour later. Same locale.
Me: Knock, knock! Guess what? Pancakes are ready.
Her: Not hungry.
Me: But I thought you said you wanted pancakes.
Her: I didn’t say. You said.
Me: Good point. But they’re ready! Let’s eat pancakes, and then go down to the beach and play Frisbee! Summer beach Frisbee playing!
Her: (sitting up, staring with laser eyes) Dad. When have I ever played summer beach Frisbee?
Me: You know. That one time when you were seven.
Her: Dad, I’m tired. And it’s summer.
Me: Honey, summer is not the time for sleeping.
Her: Some might argue it’s the best time for sleeping.
Me: Ooh! I know! Let’s go swimming! Wouldn’t that be cool? We haven’t gone swimming in like forever.
Her: Fine. Great. Swimming. Just let me sleep for a little while longer. Then we’ll go swimming.
Me: OK!!! YAY SWIMMING!!!!!!!!!!!!
Scene: Yet another hour later. Guess where we are?
Me: OK. Seriously, Riley. The day’s almost half over. You’re not just going to sleep all day, are you? It’s too nice out, and we have a whole day to go out and do something fun. Or at least half a day now. Come on.
Her: (sitting upright slowly) You know, some adults have hobbies. Jigsaw puzzles. Reading. You should think about taking up something.
Me: I do have a hobby. JUMPING ON YOUR BED, YAY!!!!!!!
Her: Ow! God! Stop doing that! Get off my bed!! What is wrong with you!!! Why are you doing this?
Me: Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this? (Pause.) I’m doing this because I’m feeling guilty about being a bad parent.
Her: (Yawning) You’re not a bad parent.
Me: Of course, I’m a bad parent. I’m a bad parent because I didn’t plan ahead last spring like all the good parents did when they signed their kids up for summer volunteer programs, or camp counseling jobs. I was so wrapped up in my own deal that I completed neglected to give any thought to what you would need to have a fun, adventure-packed, fulfilling summer like all your friends who are training to be junior lifeguards or volunteering to clean up the beach or taking pottery classes or going to church camp or rock climbing with Outward Bound.
Me: Or spearheading a local recycling program or learning wilderness skills or leading a storytime circle for little kids at the library.
Her: Dad –
Me: Or taking horseback riding lessons or going to Mexico and building a house with those Habitat for Humanity guys or even getting together with a few friends and deciding to stage an original musical in someone’s backyard for the neighborhood.
Her: Dad, slow down.
Me: You don’t get it. The longer you stay up here and bury yourself under the covers, the more it reflects what a horrible, unorganized father I am.
Her: I’m starting to understand now.
Her: This isn’t about me.
Her: It’s about you.
Her: (Pausing to think.) OK. Here’s what.
Me: Here’s what what?
Her: A lot of the things you just listed, I don’t really like to do. Right?
Her: And yet there are things that I do like to do. Like drawing, and reading, and listening to music, and that weekly youth group thing that you did sign me up for.
Her: And I went to two birthday parties last week, proving I have basic social skills.
Me: You do.
Her: I think you’re spending a lot of your summer feeling guilty about my summer. Which seems like much more of a waste of time than me sleeping in.
Her: Why don’t we compromise. You let me sleep in now, and later I’ll …. eat the pancakes you made when it’s time for lunch.
Me: That’s not really a compro—
Her: And maybe this afternoon, we’ll go swimming.
Her: I said “maybe.” Bring it down.
Me: OK. Yay. That sounds good.
Her: Great. Awesome. Now close the door, please.
Me: OK. Do you think you’ll be coming down soon?
Her: I’ll let you know.