During our February trip to Paris we made a quick stop over in London. It was grey and cold, busy and gritty and totally wonderful. I need to go back.
I’m not a big shopper while traveling. I would rather dine, sightsee, and experience — of course it’s always fun to have momentos, but it’s not my top priority. However as soon as it was certain we would be heading to London my heart was aflutter with the need to bring back a tiny, porcelin tea set for Abigail. We had such a limited time, less than 48 hours, but I knew it would become a family treasure with a story.
Tower of London. “Tea set or off with your head!”
Ryan is even less of a shopper than I am so upon hearing my desire to find the tea set he grumbled about it. The concierge recommended we try Hamley’s, a huge toy store much like FAO Schwarz. On the map it seemed that our hop on/hop off tour bus would pass right by it. Here’s the condensed version of what happened: Ryan did a lot of grumbling, I did a lot of getting upset and talking about the must-have tiny tea set. It was not our finest moment. Our friend, Jimmy, mediated with a very wise, “Ryan, if Sarah isn’t happy you aren’t going to be happy” mini lecture and we all stepped off the bus onto Regent Street. Two tea sets later, one for Abigail and one for baby to be Charlotte, we were strolling through Picadilly Circus while I held onto my Hamley’s bag victorious!
Dressed up guy in front of Hamley’s! Happy kid to the right.
This isn’t a story about London or tea sets though. It’s really a story about Ryan. It was a couple of weeks after we returned home that Abigail made tea time a regular part of our evenings, but it was always with Daddy. He mentioned in passing one night after Abigail went to sleep that he was really happy we got it. “You’re really good at making things special,” he said, “She loves it.”
But the truth is. Ryan is really good at making things special, making Abigail feel special. As much as I would love to sit down for tea with Abigail, and we do occasionally, I’m happy to let it be theirs.
Ryan has always been a hands on dad. I never wanted to be the bossy wife correcting him if he did something differently than me. So what if he uses a few more wipes for every diaper change than I do or only lets her have 3 play dohs out at a time. It doesn’t matter if he wants to break her string cheese up into bites when I give it to her in strips. I don’t think she needs powdered sugar on top of french toast when she’s going to dip it in syrup but he loves to make it like his mom did. He does “Baby Drip Dry” after a bath and I let Abigail take off down the hallway, her hooded towel a billowing cape. Tomaytoes, tomahtoes.
I think Ryan looks to me sometimes for how to deal with certain things that come up; how to say no to a snack too close to dinner or how to read stories a little softer and a little calmer at bedtime. But I’m not sure he knows how much I look up to him. As a mom who’s home all day amidst laundry and paperwork and kitchen duty it’s easy to lose perspective.
It’s the little things he does that help remind me of what really matters. The excited “hey you!” he says to her each afternoon when he walks through door. The undivided attention he gives her when they play often talking about important things, like strong foundations for block castles. The way he lets her stand on the kitchen counter, one hand at her back while she smells every spice we own, giving enthusiastic praise each time she identifies thyme or curry or cinnamon. The way he’s not too busy to let her have a few more minutes to collect pine cones or to run around the golf course. His patience for chasing after her as she runs to the waves over and over again. I just love him and her, but what I never expected to love so much was the relationship between him and her.
The tea pot has a chip in it now. I won’t lie, I was a little devastated so I took it away. I put it on top of the refrigerator hoping she would forget about it for a while. The other day she told Ryan, “Tea Party, Daddy!” “Is that okay?” he asked me. “It has a chip in it. I don’t want it to get messed up.” I said. “That’s okay,” he said with his mega smile, “It’s just like Chip!” Unbeknownst to him teaching me another lesson: relax and enjoy.
She’s a lucky girl. And so am I. Happy Early Father’s Day, Ryan. XO