The simple joys of parenthood can easily be taken for granted
I sat last week and listened as a mother told me her heart-wrenching tale of her daughter's abduction 18 months ago.
What a conflict.
The journalist in me wanted to know all the details. The father in me could only wonder what I would do in that situation. It was the first time I had ever felt myself torn between my career and that hat I wear called fatherhood.
When I married Lynne in November 1998, it was a package deal. Not only did I get a wife, but a daughter technically a stepdaughter, but it's not a term we use as well.
Six-year-old Kaylin has become one of my favorite people in the world.
She's smart, funny, creative and amazingly articulate the things you would expect to hear from any parent. Of course, coming from me, you should realize that I'm not embellishing. We all know that a newsman never embellishes.
Kaylin has a father, whom she loves dearly and my job is more of a support role. I am an authority figure in her life. I am a protector. I am a teacher. And, I am a set of ears for her to talk to.
I never could have guessed nearly three years ago that this little girl would come to mean so much to me.
Frankly, I never thought Kaylin would allow me close enough to her or her mother for her to ever have an impact on my life.
To say she was standoffish in our early meetings would have been putting it mildly.
About a month into my relationship with Lynne, we were at their apartment watching television while Kaylin sat near the coffee table drawing a picture for me.
I told you this kid was creative, but little did I realize at that point just how astute her artistic abilities were.
"That's a pretty picture, Kaylin," I said. "Tell me about it."
"Well, that's me and mommy and daddy in a boat and you being eaten by a shark."
And so succinct.
Lynne turned nine shades of red. Kaylin gave me a maniacal little grin and I just laughed. Hey, you have to give her style points for honesty.
I never pushed it.
I never forced myself into her life.
I always let her come to me.
And, eventually, she did.
About six months later, we were all sitting around their apartment again a replay of the earlier scene. Kaylin drew me another picture. And, like a fool, I once again asked her to explain it to me.
"This is you and mommy getting married and me being the flower girl," she said.
Lynne and I got engaged a few months later. It was a two-ring engagement one for Lynne and one for my daughter-to-be.
We've come a long way all of us since our first encounters and I couldn't imagine my life without either my wife or daughter.
I think it's why I felt so much conflict last week. Miranda Budiman has been away from her mother for as long as I have been married. I can only image the anguish Tara Budiman is going through.
Listening to Tara ask me what size shoes a 6-year-old wears made me so sad.
Shoe shopping had always been one of those necessary drudgeries. As it turns out, it's a simple pleasure we likely wouldn't have appreciated until Kaylin was in college, out of our care.
We'll look back fondly on the things we now consider to be so darn routine.
Tara is aching for that routine. She looks forward to the little things we find so darn inconvenient.
She wants to be the mother who always has to pick up a carload of kids from the movies.
She looks forward to telling Miranda clean her room and even relishes the battle that will likely ensue. Six-year-olds will do anything to get out of cleaning their rooms.
She longes for the chores of parenthood again.
It's sad it took a mother being without her little girl for me to realize this.
I hope Tara gets to enjoy some of life's simple drudgeries real soon.