KatyBeth's mother and I share joint custody. Basically, my kid stays with me every day I have off, and with her mother on the days I work. Sometimes there's some overlap, but The Ex and I are adults about it, and swap days pretty freely when necessary.
While I never counted on being present for only half of my daughter's life, it's a damned sight better than spending every other weekend like some divorced fathers do. That whole every-other-weekend thing was the reason I moved to southwest Louisiana in the first place.
Since every day I'm not working, I have my kid, I tend to drag her along with me when I visit friends or teach classes or speak at conferences. She doesn't go unwillingly, she just likes to tag along with Daddy, and leaving her home means I lose a day with my kid.
Luckily for me, she's not a whiny kid. She gets along with anyone, and she's pretty comfortable in adult company. On the rare occasions I liked a date enough to bring her home to meet my daughter, invariably Katy would drag her off to her room to play with Barbies, and grill her on just when she and I were gonna get married and get around to making her a baby brother. I suppose it's a testament to the irresistible charm of my kid that none of them ran screaming from the premises.
Another thing she's really, really good at is gravitating to the one adult in the room who doesn't have or want kids, and deciding that person is going to be her playmate.
And that is a testament to the coolness of my friends that they humor her and play with her graciously.
At the first Blogorado, she was amazed by Miss Breda, the cool lady who shoots guns and has a lucky fin just like she does and everything, and plus she was modular!
Then she toddled over to the World's Most Kid-Averse Scientist, and enlisted Labrat in a few impromptu performances of Backyardigans Dinner Theater.
At Phlegmfest last month, while the rest of us were gathered in the back yard, gnoshing, telling stories and drinking Nerd Beer, I noticed I hadn't seen KatyBeth in quite a while. I wandered through the house to discover whose time she was currently monopolizing, and found her curled on the couch with Phlegm Fatale, watching cartoons and drawing. After being assured for the umpteenth time by our lovely hostess that no, KatyBeth wasn't being a bother, and yes she was behaving herself, and no she didn't have to run outside and play if she didn't want to and really, don't you have something better to do than interrupt us girls when we're busy?…
… I figured she was in good hands, and left her to her own devices.
At some point, KatyBeth also latched onto Labrat and disappeared for another couple of hours, emerging from the house only long enough to show me her glamorous new fake fingernails (which Labrat generously applied), and to ask me if she could get a tattoo.
"Sure, honey. Whatever you want is – waitaminnit, did you say tattoo?"
Phlegmmy assured me that the tattoos were tasteful and girly and not at all skanky, and best of all, non-permanent. And so, they retired to the air-conditioned comfort of Chez Phlegmmy and proceeded to give my eight-year-old daughter a… a… a tramp stamp.
Of course, KatyBeth had to come outside to show it off, and I'm sure Phlegmmy, Labrat and Christina all shared a laugh at my abject horror in finding a butterfly tattoo plastered on my daughter's lower back. Later, when Labrat came back outside, I noticed something was… off about her hands.
"Uh, Labrat? Were you drunk when you applied your nail polish? Or riding a mechanical bull, perhaps?"
"Nope," she replied matter-of-factly, "KatyBeth painted them for me."
"Um, you do know she has cerebral palsy, right? And that her coordination ain't the best in the world?"
"I do. And the excess polish will wash off my skin easily enough… I think."
"Um, Labrat, you really didn't have to do that, you know. I appreciate your patience, but – "
"It's fine," she assured me firmly. "After I did her nails, she insisted on doing mine. She said it was the least she could do to return the favor. Who am I to deny her when she's just being polite?"
And with that, she retired back inside to play with my kid some more, while the rest of us teased a visibly uncomfortable Stingray (the World's Second Most Kid-Averse Scientist) about his wife's previously unrecognized maternal skills.
I tell ya, I've got a great kid and wonderful friends.