Monday. My nearly two-week vacation ended today.

It sucks. Totally sucks.

When I left the house this morning Ella uncharacteristically tried to keep me there. She wanted me to stay and play with her. She wanted me to take care of Purple Baby. Then she wanted to come with me. It was heart wrenching. She gave me a big hug goodbye.

When I walked out the door she was standing at the top of the stairs. When I pulled out of the driveway and looked back, she was looking out the sidelight of the front door, crying.

I’m accustomed to viewing this behavior when it’s Trish who’s leaving. Last Thursday, when Trish went to the dentist, Ella ran out the door and down the driveway, tears gushing, wailing, “Mama! I want my Mama! I want to go to the dentist!”

When I leave I’m usually lucky to get a wave. In the mornings she typically has a glass of milk and lounges on the sofa until her brain is fully awake.

But she and I, daughter and dad, have spent most of the past 16 days together, the most we’ve ever spent at one stretch. And now that she’s grown into a little person, able to talk and run around the yard and pee in the toilet, we have a lot of fun (I wasn’t so good during the infant stage; I can relate to a 2-year-old!). Not every moment of vacation was a vacation, but parts of every day was a lot of fun. More fun than I could have imagined.

I used to love work. I was on call 24-7, and my mouth would water when the pager went off.

That was more than 2.5 years ago. My job is a little different now, but there’s not one aspect of it that’s more satisfying than the least desirable moment with Ella … that might be a stretch … no, I’m pretty sure I’d rather be in the middle of a throw-down struggle with my toddler than forge a new interdepartmental initiative.

No new initiative is going to plop down beside me on the floor and snuggle close during a movie, or suggest we eat popsicles for breakfast, or refer to me as “my Dad.”