My daughter loves to have slumber parties. Being a six-year-old girl, it kind of goes with the territory I realize, but this really seems to be exciting for her. These attempts at sleepovers haven't always gone well. We have had to call the parents of a none-too-happy girl to come pick up their crying and homesick daughter on a couple of occasions. But usually everything goes smoothly.
Earlier this spring my daughter wanted to have the mother of all slumber parties. We eventually talked her into scaling it back to just four other girls from the original invitation list of the entire county. The girls mostly all got along well and were typical talking, giggling six-year-old girls.
The whole scene was working very well. The potential problem we had to watch for was from little Rachel. Two days before the sleepover Rachel found out that her mommy and daddy were separating and that daddy was moving out of the house. Her mother told us that Rachel had naturally been upset, but she was so looking forward to the sleepover that she was fairly certain she would be alright with all the other girls.
Everything was moving along well. My brave wife, bless her heart, decided we needed to pick up a few things. So we loaded up the truck and took the whole gaggle of giggling six-year old girls to Wal-Mart. It was a high time for the soon-to-be kindergarten graduates, let me tell you. They were involved in picking out shoes that the boys would like them to wear, and choosing entire ensembles, and basically acting like they were ten years older than they were. Six going on sixteen times five. My wife was browsing through the aisles and I was mostly trying to keep the whole herd in the same general area until the shopping stopped.
Then I heard it. I didn't see how it started, but I saw what was happening. It was little Rachel, eyes awash in tears, wailing and sobbing. My wife, her motherly instinct taking over, immediately swept Rachel up in her arms, asking, "Honey, what's wrong? What's wrong?"
The sobbing continued for a minute or two, maybe. Then finally little Rachel was able to form words. Those words sent a chill down my spine.
"I want my daddy back!"
I looked at this tiny girl, her body shaking and convulsing with tears. I looked at my wife, her eyes had started to well up. I had to turn away. The tears were running down my cheeks, one after another. With the drama being played out in front of the other girls, including my own daughter, I didn't want to break down. I wanted to be strong for them somehow. I couldn't.
I turned and walked quickly up and down the shoe aisle, rubbing my hands across my face as if to try to push the tears back into the ducts. My heart was breaking for this little girl. In the teary eyes of little Rachel, I saw my own daughter. "What would it be like for her if my wife and I separated?" I thought to myself. "Would it be my own little girl sobbing and crying her heart out at Wal-Mart?"
My daughter greeted me when I got home last night with so much love. "Oh, Daddy, I haven't seen you all day!" she told me. We had some special cuddling time on the couch. She colored me a picture. She chose me to tuck her in. She said, "I love you very much, Daddy."
I love you too, darling.