On Thursdays, I drop my daughter Savvy off at her grandmother’s house. That’s been the routine ever since Savvy started swim classes. It makes for an easier day for me, and Grandma Judy gets to play with her granddaughter all day once a week. If you love your grandma the way Savvy loves Grandma Judy, that’s a big time treat. I’m not sure my daughter has ever eaten a vegetable over there. Certainly not on a Thursday.
Of course, while she’s there, Savvy gets to feed the cows with Aunt Pam, and maybe go for a ride on the tractor with Grandpa. You never know what’s in store for you at Grandma’s house, so it’s a fun adventure every time.
Today, it’s raining a little, so Savvy insists on using her princess umbrella to walk the five feet from our car to grandma’s door. Aunt Pam was waiting in the garage with an umbrella, but I waved her off. Once inside, it was the usual round of Thursday morning merriment, with Savvy greeting everyone with big hugs and kisses.
Her latest thing, when it’s time to say goodbye, is to blow kisses at you and ask you to catch them. This requires you to make a move like you are catching a baseball with both hands, and then clasp them to your heart. Then she will expect you to blow kisses back at her, and she will catch them, cheering “Got ‘em!” and clasp her hands to her heart as well.
Then, sometimes – often, really – she blows you more kisses that you must catch. And of course you have to blow more kisses back. I think. I’m not 100% sure of the formalities. I think she and my wife Michele invented it. But Grandma Judy eagerly joined the club, and I guess by then we were all drafted. So it takes a few moments to say goodbye these days.
Now, it’s not a big deal to do the kiss catch thing wrong; that’s going to happen sometimes when you are participating in a ritual created by a three year old. But I never really got the rules down, and they seem to change each week anyway. When this all started a few months ago, Savvy could be in another room playing and I could call out “Goodbye!” and she’d call back “’Bye Dad,” without looking up from her Barbie. Prior to that, Judy used to have to distract her so I could sneak out and not start Savvy on a crying fit. So the goodbyes have evolved, shall we say.
Now we’re up to this blow kisses thing, and when that started I could blow a kiss and she’d blow a kiss and that was about it.
No catching and clasping.
Now it’s all discombobulated, and I’m the only one who’s not up on the rules – as I found out the hard way a few weeks ago. Michele and Savvy hopped into the car to go to dance class, and I helped buckle Savvy into the car seat. Which means I was in the garage with them before the car ever started to back away. Which means there was ample opportunity to say goodbye to me while I was buckling the kid into the seat. But without regard to that, they backed up and I waved, and started to go into the house.
Michele taps the car horn. When she puts the window down, I hear our daughter crying. “You have to wave goodbye!” my wife informs me.
I’m confused. “I did,” I protest.
“You have to catch her kisses, too.”
I lean over so my daughter can see me again from her car seat, and wait for some sort of kiss-blowing motion. This abates the crying. When I think I see the kisses getting blown to me, I catch them and clutch them to my chest with a big smile. My daughter happily now says something to me that I cannot hear over the engine noise, since I am standing almost in front of the car.
“What” I mouth to my wife.
“You have to blow more kisses to her!”
I blow some kisses. I think I see Savvy catch and clasp. Good to go.
“Catch more, Dad!”
I do. Then I see the urge in my wife’s eyes, requesting another set of return air kisses to my daughter. I oblige, wondering how many time this goes back and forth.
“You guys are gonna be late for class,” I tease.
A semi-frown is Michele’s reply, and they drive off.
Now, what bugs me about this is twofold. First, my daughter used to be able to smash head first into a wall at full speed and she wouldn’t make a peep. Now she’s almost four years old and she cries if you mess up the third round of air kisses. That’s a problem. Second, somebody needs to let me know what the rules are.
And not just me. Michele was heading off to an appointment the other day, and Savvy wanted to wave goodbye to her. Depending on the weather, it may be too cold for Savvy to go out to the garage, especially if it’s a morning appointment in winter and Savvy’s still in her pajamas. So we wave goodbye from the workout room. It has big glass doors that look out onto the driveway. Michele backs up, stops, waves; Savvy waves back. Good to go.
Now we have to do the air kiss thing a few times, which is fine, but then after Michele backed up the car, Savvy ran over to the front window. I figured she wanted to watch Mommy’s car drive down the driveway. And she did.
But she also wanted another air kiss or wave goodbye. None of the rest of us knew that. We had no plan.
So my wife roars on down the driveway and gets ready to pull into the street, with my daughter waving frantically at her.
‘Goodbye! Goodbye!” Tears were welling up in her eyes.
“Why isn’t she waving goodbye to me?” my daughter choked out.
“She – she has to keep her hands on the steering wheel, sweetie. Safety first, you know?” that wasn’t going to cut it. Then a brainstorm. “Mommy will flash the car’s red tail lights, to wave to you. She’ll do that to let you know that she saw you waving. Watch.” It was the best I could think of on short notice. Then I held my breath.
As my wife slowed down to pull from our driveway into the street, she applied the brakes and the tail lights lit up.
“There you go!” I announced in triumphant relief. “See? Mommy saw you and waved with the tail lights!”
My daughter smiled up at me, blinking back tears. “She saw me!”
“Of course she saw you! She turned on the red lights, didn’t she?”
Satisfied, Savvy returned to her oatmeal. Later, I gave Michele a call and let her know about the new goodbye protocol.
And the next time she had an early appointment, my smart cookie of a wife did even better.
After Savvy waved goodbye from the workout room doors and sprinted up to the front windows, Michele pulled around and stopped, lowered the passenger side window, and waved again.
Savvy was ecstatic. She blew a few air kisses, Mommy caught them blew a few back, and –
And that’s where all the trouble started, I think.
I think that very day, the three-round goodbye air-kiss ritual was created. I was right there and I didn’t even notice, but I had unwittingly helped create a formality that would send our daughter reeling if we didn’t carry it out properly. And I’m not talking a temper tantrum, or a fit; I’m talking depressed sobbing, “Mommy didn’t wave goodbye to me,” which is way worse. Oatmeal takes a lot longer to eat in those circumstances.
This whole thing has gotten me off balance. When it’s my turn to say goodbye, I never know when I’m actually allowed to exit the room. The goodbye thing might go two rounds or five, you never know. Grandma always plays for extra innings, too.
I’m doing my best, though.
Well, that’s really not true. I was not trying my best, and now I’m trying a little harder. And I realized that, which is lame and made me feel bad, so now going to really try my best. It’s a small thing. It probably won’t last.
She hasn’t been doing this big goodbye thing for very long and she’s not going to keep doing it for very long. Probably. I don’t see her being 25 years old and still blowing air kisses for 20 minutes.
At least I hope not. If she takes after her mother, who takes an hour to say goodbye to everybody after Thanksgiving dinner, who knows? You go and eat dinner at 6pm, you’re done by 8, and it’s 10 o’clock and she’s still saying goodbye to people. They’re talking like they didn’t just do that for two hours. For a while there I used to make an excuse to drive over separately just so I could go ahead on home and catch the end of the football game while she was still hugging people.
For a while I did that. I don’t do that anymore. I did it like, twice. A few years ago. Before Savvy was born. Stop looking at me.
Because I realized I have to set an example for our daughter, okay? But also because it’s worth it. People don’t last forever, and you never know when the last time you hug or kiss somebody goodbye is going to be the last time that you ever hug or kiss them goodbye. So you have to keep that in mind.
And it’s kind of the same thing with this “let me catch your kiss – I caught it” business. At worst, realistically, if I ran a stopwatch on it, it’s probably between 10 and 60 seconds long. That’s not a lot of time. You only run into trouble if you stop too soon, so give it 60 seconds. Don’t worry about stopping too soon, because one day it’s going to stop.
It will stop one day.
And you know what I’m going to say next.
This whole “catch my kiss – caught it” thing will stop one day, and on that day, I may wish that I had this day back. That day may be six months from now, or six years from now, or that day may never come. But I have a feeling that, like most things with my daughter, the day something stops always comes a little sooner than I want it to.
Friday morning, I headed off in the car. Savvy and Michele waved at me from the workout room. As I pulled around to drive down the driveway, I made an unusually wide turn so I could pull up in front of the windows. That’s not my routine, not my ritual.
There they both were, waving madly at me. I blew some kisses and caught some, and headed on my way, with a warm feeling that lasted longer than oatmeal ever did.