I was supposed to play golf on Saturday with two neighbors and one of the neighbor’s friends. They’ve been talking about it for two weeks. We would play early so it wouldn’t eat up the day.

I committed to it with a stone in my gut. “Yeah, sure. Sounds like fun.” I had to force the words out. I should hang out with the guys more often, do some testosterone shooters, beat my chest.

But I’d rather hang out with my kid.

This morning, before I left for work,  I asked Trish what was on slate for Saturday. I knew we were having dinner at some friends at 6:30. I should be home from golf by 3, with plenty of time to get ready for dinner. But I was looking for a way out.

Trish, the sweetest, most earnest and sincere person in the world, reminded me of a consignment sale Saturday morning, completely guilt-free.

“Oh, and I guess it’d be better if Ella stayed home.”

“No, not necessarily. She can go with me.”

Darn.

“Then,” she said, “there’s Bug Fest at the museum.”

Aha! Bug Fest! Spiders and dung beetles and the bee-bearded lady! Ella’s going to love it! She loves the museum of natural sciences anyway, when there’s just the same old dinosaur skeleton and the native-animal dioramas, stuffed and dusty. But add bugs and the kid’s going to go wild! She loves bugs! I saw my opening and went for it.

“Well, when will we do that if I go play golf? I guess you guys could go without me.” I know. It was pathetic.

And then Ella lands the sucker punch.

“Dad, will you go with me?”

I don’t know what I said to avoid a direct answer, but I did. I limped off to work with my tail between my legs, but with a plan of escape.

Tonight, when I got home from work, I went next door to tell the neighbor I was backing out. I hate backing out. I’m sure I seemed weasely. He doesn’t have kids yet. His wife’s a pilot. Their lives are carefree, like back in the day. No problem, he said. He could find someone else. No big deal.

Walking back to my house the other neighbor was coming to the first neighbor’s. “You going to hit range balls tonight?”

I told him no, and that I’d just backed out of the Saturday game.

“Dad duty, huh?”

“Yeah,” I said, in my best “what a drag” voice. No sense in opening myself to suspicion. I mean, a dad who LIKES his kid? Who would choose his kid over golf? On Saturday? Come on, that’s impossible. Honestly, if we didn’t have so many fun things planned I’d be looking forward to playing golf. But I’m still riding the dad high. I still want to take advantages of the fun things. There won’t be another Bug Fest when Ella’s net yet 3 and knows the answers to all of life’s problems and comes to me only when she wants to rob me of my last $20 for a trip to the freaking mall.

About half an hour ago I tucked Ella into bed and was saying goodnight when I received all the validation I need.

“Dad, I miss you when you go to work,” she said.

“I miss you too, Sweetheart.”

Yeah, I could say I’m not going to let my kid run my life. I could say it’s best that she start realizing that I’m not always going to be there, that life’s not always fun, that she needs to start learning how to entertain herself. I know people who do that.

You know what? That’s bullshit. The kid’s been on the earth less than three years. Remember how junior high seemed so difficult, and it lasted three years? Imagine, because you can’t remember, going through junior high and at the same time trying to learn how to talk and walk and feed yourself and poop in a toilet without falling in.

Kids whose parents put them on hold are the ones who become the most obnoxious mall rats.

And besides, it’s Bug Fest! The bee-bearded lady? How cool is that??

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