The 2nd grade in our school has a Dads and Doughnuts celebration, and Scout is a 2nd grader this year. Maybe you remember when Sport was in 2nd grade and someone thought my sweetie was his grandpa...
To prevent any of those crazy misunderstandings this year since he is still a bit fragile from his recent birthday, I offered to be the mom helper and donate a gallon of milk. That gave me the perfect excuse to show up at the school with them this morning at 8:30.
Scout had carefully packed her backpack full of her favorite books since that is really the point of the celebration. The dads come in with their kids and then sit and read with them for 45 minutes while they eat a doughnut and have something to drink. My job was pretty easy. I helped pour half-cups of orange juice and then handed doughnuts to kids as they served their dads. After everyone was settled I got a chance to just sit back and watch, only interrupted occasionally by a request for more chocolate milk or a napkin.
I've always been a people watcher, so I was happy to observe the ways these various dads interacted with their children. Some dads were like my sweetie and Scout. They both focused on the books and spent the time reading. A few dads were young enough to be my children! One looked like he was barely out of high school.
There were two who definitely looked older than my sweetie, and both of them snuggled right up with their kids and spent the time whispering words from the stories into their ears. Maybe when dads get older they grow to appreciate what they might have missed about fatherhood so they embrace it physically and mentally.
Some of the dads were clearly dressed for work and they couldn't resist taking a peak at their cell phones every few minutes. A couple of them just stared into space while their kids read to them instead of the other way around. One dad looked like maybe he was battling chemo with the sunken eyes and the super-thin arms. That would be awfully rough on a 2nd grader.
Two kids brought their moms, but they looked like they were getting along OK. The saddest sight was one little guy who carefully brought two doughnuts and two cups of chocolate milk to his desk and waited patiently for his dad to walk through the door. It never happened. After it was pretty obvious he wasn't coming, Scout's teacher spent her time reading to him.
When 9:15 rolled around, we gathered up leftover doughnuts and chairs and my sweetie and I headed for the van. Scout, of course, stayed in school. As I laced my fingers through my sweetie's, I thought about all the other Dads and Doughnuts, Moms and Muffins, and countless activities we have shared with our children. Some of them have grown up and moved away. Did all of our hours, all of our efforts to be good supportive parents make a difference?
I'd like to think it did. Scout's smile and numerous hugs when we left certainly seemed to indicate it made a difference to her in her life at least right now. I hope that absent dad had a good reason this morning, something he couldn't possibly avoid, because seeing that child's hopeful eyes glance up every minute or two was heartbreaking.
No child should ever have to wait with an empty chair and an uneaten doughnut.