Op/Ed

Clippings: Daddy’s Big Dangerous Day

The other day my 3-year-old, Frankie, told us a story. 
“Once upon a time Daddy was in the middle of the road,” she began. “On the yellow line.”
My husband, Daniel, older daughter Joni, and I waited expectantly. 
“And then a car came and crashed into Daddy.”
We laughed. “What happened next?” one of us asked.
“Then,” Frankie paused (she’s got decent comedic timing), “Daddy fell in a hole.”
Joni was cackling now, and it made all of us giggle. “What happened next?” we asked.
“Daddy couldn’t get out. And the monsters came. And they ate Daddy’s head.”
*hysterical laughter*
Daddy had been quarantining away from us for several days by then. He had traveled to the Philadelphia area — a coronavirus “red zone,” according to the Vermont Health Department — to visit his mom for a family emergency. And now he was living in my parents’ tenant-less apartment until his COVID test results came back, or until two weeks passed — whichever happened first.
We visited him occasionally on my parents’ deck, keeping six feet apart.
Daniel knew it would be hard for the girls not to be able to touch or hug their dad. So he gave them squirt guns, rigged up a makeshift slip ‘n slide and found other ways to engage with them at a distance.
We started giving vicarious hugs: I would crouch down on the ground in front of Daniel, and the girls would run to me and hug me with all their might, staring at Daniel while he pretended to squeeze them.
We’re still waiting on his test results. 
And it’s been hard on all of us. I’m exhausted. Daniel feels like he’s been exiled. We wonder if we’re being overly cautious. 
We know how lucky we are to have the nearby, empty apartment for him. Others in this situation might have to quarantine their whole family, giving up childcare and consistent work for two weeks. Or they might have to pay to self-isolate in a hotel somewhere.
Still, we are all counting the days.
Every morning Frankie asks me, “Today can we touch Daddy?” She sighs and says, “I want a REAL hug from Daddy.”
Just a few more days, I tell my girls.
After the storytelling session — which Joni later entitled “Daddy’s Big Dangerous Day” — Daniel texted me: “Wow. Frankie has some rage.”
Maybe so. But that’s not how I interpreted the story. I saw a 3-year-old exploring what it means to lose her dad. And doing what kids do best: adapting. Even though she couldn’t touch him, or hug him, or climb on him, she found her own way across those six feet: She made him laugh.

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