I don’t know what it is about the third child, but she often gets overlooked. Maybe it’s her age or the fact she has an older brother and sister. Whatever the reason, Anna is often left alone while her older siblings are off celebrating birthday parties or playing with friends.
When I arrived home from work today, Anna was upset. She’d been told that Lincoln and Luca were playing with Luca’s best friend who invited them over to her home. Anna moped around the basement getting more upset each time we tried to comfort her. There’s always a next time. But to a five-year old, “next time” sounds like an eternity.
It wasn’t long before she was in tears. I’d had enough of her complaining and sent her upstairs to cry by herself before sitting at my computer.
I normally tune out this time of day. Monday’s are filled with mindless tasks like signing expense reports and combing over time sheets. I don’t mind the work, but I’m glad it only needs my attention once a week. By the time I get home, I’m tired and my mind needs a few minutes to decompress. Coming home to a crying child isn’t what I’m looking for, yet that’s what I got today.
I could still hear Anna crying upstairs. I considered sending her to her room where she wouldn’t be heard. I started up the stairs rehearsing what I’d say.
But what came out wasn’t what I had planned.
Anna was curled up on the couch, knees pulled up tight against her chest. Her bloodshot eyes were as red as her dress. When she saw me, she glanced downward.
“Do you want to come with me on an errand?”
“You’ll need to put shoes on if you’d like to come along.”
She rolled off the couch and headed towards her closet.
I strapped her into the car and pulled out of the driveway. As we headed towards the gas station, I watched Anna in my rearview mirror. Her eyes were still red and she was sniffling. She looked straight ahead.
She watched me pump gas without saying much. I replaced the nozzle and asked her to help me turn the gas cap till it clicked tight.
“Do you want to go inside with me and choose a treat?”
Finally, a hint of a smile.
On the way home, I watched my daughter look out the window as we passed children playing at the park. Older kids were playing tennis while other shot baskets. Chocolate from her Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup began to cover her cheeks.
A couple of blocks from our home she said, “Dad?”
“Was this something only I get to do?”
“Yep, you were the only one who helped me put gas in the car”
I didn’t matter what we did. What mattered to Anna was that she got to do something with nobody else except me. Even if it was only a trip to the gas station with dad. I don’t believe I replaced the fun she could have had at the friend’s house.
But I know it was something I’ll remember. Because in the past, I would have remained at my computer while my daughter sat alone in her room.
I pulled up the driveway and into the garage before Anna jumped out of the car and said, “I can’t wait to tell Luca and Lincoln what I got to do today”.