Yesterday we celebrated Father’s Day, and as I always do in preparation for my very favorite holiday of the entire year, I asked each of the kids what they like most about their dad. I figure compiling their words into a homemade card beats standing in line at Victoria’s Secret or Home Depot. Or Subway.
And so on Saturday afternoon, while Joe was outside mowing the lawn and the kids were perched at the kitchen island eating lunch, I asked the annual question:“What’s your favorite thing about Dad?”
Henry answered first. “I yike Daddy. Daddy yike cookies. I have a cookie?” No, Henry. No cookies until after lunch.
While his three-year old brother screeched for a cookie, Joey took his turn; “Dad’s pretty cool. I mean, he lets me play videos games a lot longer than you ever do.” Huh. Priorities of a nine-year old.
(I want a cookie!!)
In between bites of her curds and whey, four-year old Rose said dreamily, “Daddy? He’s handsome. And you know he’s going to marry me. I love him more than I love you.” The boys snickered.
Six-year old Charlie, a daddy’s boy if there ever was one, had a long list. “I love when he plays baseball with me and when he takes me on the tractor. When he wrestles me at night and we get the mail together. And when he takes me to lunch at TGI Fridays on the last day of school.” I reminded him that it was me who took him to lunch. “Oh. I forgot.”
Our eight year-old autistic son, Jack, put it succinctly. The conversation went something like this:
Me: “Jack, what do you like most about Dad?”
Jack [robotic voice]: “Really. I like to be with him.”
Me: “Anything else Jack? What do you like to do with Daddy?”
Jack: “To be with him.”
Me: “Any special games you like to play?”
Jack [screaming]: “TO. BE. WITH. HIM.”
Me: “Ssshhhh….whisper! This is a surprise!”
Jack: “I don’t WHISPER!”
The rest of the conversation between four boys and a girl eating tuna fish sandwiches disintegrated into something like this:
“I want a cookie are you sure you took me to lunch I only remember Dad can I wear your wedding dress when I marry Daddy give me a cookie now can I get the Wii back why do people whisper anyway how about Cheez-Its whispering is dumb I said I was sorry what did we even eat at TGI Fridays?”
I started to take some notes about what I would write in Joe’s card for the next day. The message read like this:
According to our kids, you are a cookie-eating, video-game playing polygamist.
But deep down, we know you’re more than that. We know you’re the guy who carried diapers in his gym bag and who launches tickle-fests at bedtime. You’re the dad who makes BLTs and sausage when it’s your turn to make dinner, and you never skimp when you’re squirting whipped cream into a laughing mouth.
Your face lights up whenever you hear Rose’s raspy voice.
From family bike rides to making wine, you encourage our family to learn, to grow, to reach higher than we think possible. To help Joey master his multiplications tables, you painstakingly wrote out math charts and reviewed with him nightly. Amidst protests and whining, you take the boys to church on your own every Sunday morning to show them what faith really means. You lead by example.
You make the best rice krispie treats and you give the best hugs.
You’re the one who never saw the autism, just the little blue-eyed boy underneath the diagnosis. And you are tireless in your pursuit to understand that boy as best you can, even if he can’t whisper.
We’d like to take a moment on Father’s Day to thank you for everything you do all year round. You make this Cariello clan who we are today.
And really? We just like to be with you.