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Everyone Loves an Indulgidaddy

“So,” I asked Hubs on the phone while I was in San Francisco last month. “Does Punky miss me?”

“Not really,” Hubs said. “But you know how they are.”

“She hasn’t asked about me?”

“Nope. She’s been really busy, though.”

“Let me talk to her.”

In the background, I heard the sounds of a struggle. “I don’t want to talk on the phone,” Punky whined. Hubs said something to her in a low voice. Then, moments later, “Hi Mommy.”

“Hey, Punky, are you having fun?”

“Yeah.”

“I miss you,” I said, my voice cracking.

“I miss you too, Mommy. Bye!” Hastily, Punky handed the phone back to Hubs.

“We’re playing Shrek on the Playstation,” Hubs explained.

“Yeah, okay,” I said. “Whatever.”

“I’m like, their personal valet this weekend,” he continued, obviously feeling sorry for me. “I’ve done nothing but whatever they want.”

I laughed weakly. “Yeah, well, I’ve gotta go.” We said our goodbyes and hung up and I tried not to think about the fact that despite the thousands of hours I had devoted to reading to Punky, playing dollies with her, making her food that she would actually eat, washing her hair, buying her clothes and toys, teaching her to read and write and add and subtract, taking her to the ballet and the zoo and the botanical gardens, despite the hugs and the “I love you forevers” and the endless, endless, endless snuggling? The kid didn’t even miss me when I was gone.

When I returned home a couple of days later, Punky didn’t even seem to mind that she was filthy dirty and had tangles in her hair, or that she had apparently done nothing but eat donuts and play video games for four straight days. “Daddy and I had fun together!” she crowed. And the generous and kind part of me had to be happy that she and Hubs were finally bonding. She had been glued to my side for the past four years, so intensely loyal and physically close that I found myself literally stumbling over her any time she was in the room.

But the other side of me? The side that contains, you know, my ego? It was wounded. And a little pissed. That side of me resolved to win back Punky’s loyalty the moment Hubs and the older girls left for an out-of-town soccer tournament the next weekend, starting with a marionette show downtown a few hours after Hubs and the girls hit the road.


“Is Daddy meeting us here?” Punky wanted to know when we arrived at the theater.

“No, Daddy and your sisters are on vacation for a few days,” I reminded her. “It’s just me, you, and Bruiser!”

“Awww,” Punky muttered, kicking the ground with one Croc. She cheered up, fortunately, once the story of The Frog Prince came to life on stage. Afterward, we went back home and I made the kids lunch.

“When is Daddy coming home?” Punky asked.

“Um, not for a few days,” I said. “He’s on vacation, remember?”

And so went the weekend. I watched movies with Punky. I colored with her. I dressed her up like a princess. I took her to play at the YMCA nursery. I read her about 1,247 books. I made all of her favorite meals. And she responded thusly:

“Will Daddy be home for dinner?”
“When will Daddy get here?”
“Where’s Daddy?”
“It’s dark! They can’t be playing soccer now! Why isn’t Daddy home?”
“Daddy was beposed to wake me up this morning!”
“Will Daddy be home when I wake up tomorrow?”
“Is Daddy coming home now?”
“When is Daddy coming home?”
“When is Daddy coming home?”
“When is Daddy coming home?”

After two days of this, it dawned on me that I very well may spend the rest of my childrearing years in a struggle with an Indulgidaddy. Oh sure, I might teach the kids life skills and discipline. My children would know how to cook before they leave home thanks to me, and how to keep their toilets, floors, and clothes clean. I would be the one responsible for their excellent manners, their compassion, and service to others, and their impeccable taste in shoes. But their hearts and their fiercest hugs would forever belong to Indulgidaddy, the man who gave them candy whenever they asked for it! The man who let them play video games for as long as they wanted! The man who never made them take a bath and looked the other way when they missed curfew! Hoo-Fucking-Ray for Indulgidaddy!

Now this is the point where you may feel outrage on my behalf and assume because of this small glimpse into our lives that everything I’ve mentioned makes up the core of our parenting partnership. That, I’m afraid, is not exactly true. Hubs is, seriously, the best father I’ve ever known. He’s absolutely obsessed with his family, as I’ve written here many times before, and if he tends toward indulgence, well give me that any day over the other dads I see, who work seventy hours a week by choice and try to make up for it on the weekends by yelling extra loud at their kids on the soccer field.

I guess I’m just saying that, as much as my head tells me that it’s lovely and wonderful and necessary for my children to forge lasting relationships with their father, my heart is still screaming, Love me best.

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