He introduces them to Van Morrison and Van Halen; they know all of the words to “Crazy Love.”
He plays guitar and sings with them; sometimes, they sing in harmony.
He teaches them the “right” way to throw a football into a spiral, hold a bat to hit a ball, wield a hockey stick, and kick a soccer ball.
He cannot wait to show them every episode of “Trip Flip” and wishes that I’d give my okay to sharing “Bar Rescue” with them, too. (Not gonna happen.)
He takes a shower in the master bathroom (the tub with the plastic shower curtain and the single shower head, which he does not like) rather than the “main” bathroom (the large tile shower with the multiple, awesome shower jets, which he far prefers) so that he doesn’t risk awakening the girls when he has to catch an a.m. plane at the perfectly wrong time.
He agrees, without the slightest hesitation, to fully assume kid and dog duty in the morning, presiding over breakfast and get-to-school wrangling, every morning that I teach.
He laces up their skates so that they are just tight enough to support their ankles and never come untied (unlike a certain Mommy we know who has no patience for tightening things properly).
He never, ever refers to being with the girls as “babysitting.”
He compliments the girls on their personalities, their intelligence, their wit, their humor, their efforts, and their accomplishments far more than he does their appearance.
He still makes sure to tell them that they are beautiful, often.
He volunteers as a Math Fact Helper whenever there’s a need, quizzing third graders on multiplication and division tables before he goes to the office. The first graders requested that he return as a Science Action volunteer because he was so funny the first time he came in.
He attends Daddy/Daughter dances even though he really doesn’t want to, because they want to, and never complains about it (to them, anyway).
He never misses calling or FaceTime-ing the girls whenever he’s out of town, asking about their days (if there’s time) or, at the very least, making sure to catch them before bedtime to wish them good night. (Well, except for that one time he didn’t call, and that didn’t go over so well, and now he never misses calling. Voila!)
He phones the girls every morning before school if he’s off on a business trip, even if it means awakening at some ungodly hour because he’s in another time zone.
He brings them back trinkets from each trip he takes – partly to soften the sting of his being gone, partly because the man cannot resist purchasing stuff, and partly because it’s their thing now, shared between the three of them.
He coaches first grade soccer with humor, encouragement, and patience that I know I do not possess. (As a teacher, this is saying something; mad props, man.)
He’s far more likely than I (by, oh, a million times) to buy something completely unnecessary when he and the girls are out, either because they were clamoring for it or because he just couldn’t help himself from loading the air hockey table into his cart; they know this, and they love it.
He introduces the girls to iPad games, which they could play with him – over his shoulder – for hours on end. I sometimes complain when they’re glued to the screen “helping” him build a city or defeat an army or whatever it is they do, but really, aside from it being electronic, is this so different than a game of Risk?
He has never – not once – hinted that he’s even remotely upset that he doesn’t have a son. In fact, sometimes I think he prefers having only daughters.
He tickles and pokes and roughhouses in ways that drive me absolutely insane but that the girls not only love, but need.
He apologizes to them and he means it.
He never misses an opportunity to loudly call the girls by their absurd, imaginary nicknames (Vanessa Stinkbottom and Julianna Snotnose), choosing his moments carefully so as to inflict maximum embarrassment (but never too much).
He’s starting to swear a little more around them; sometimes I admonish, sometimes I don’t. The girls just think it’s funny.
He invites them to curl up on his lap when they’ve become overwhelmed or sad or tired; they almost always accept.
He graciously escorts them from dinners and gatherings for a little alone time when it’s clear that they’ve just had enough.
He will not fix their hair. Ever.
Coincidentally, they’ve grown quite good at fixing their own hair. Funny, that.
He makes certain to spend time with them individually.
He is better at getting them to bed on time than I am.
He is sure to give them hugs when he’s accidentally bonked them in the nose with the Track Ball ball.
He oohs and ahhhhs over every gift and present, homemade to recycled (“I just knew you’d want this old gum wrapper collection!”) to the items that were actually on his wish list, and every one is treated with the same amount of appreciation and enthusiasm.
He has different secret handshakes with both of them.
I don’t know what they are.
Because they’re secrets. Duh.
He tells them that they are awesome, every single day.
He tells them that he loves them, every single day.
He tells them that he loves being their daddy, every single day.
They tell him that they love being his kids – and, oh, how they do.
He will be missing his own dad this Sunday – his dad who was so tremendously proud of him as a father – and, damn it all, there is nothing that we can do to take that ache and sadness away.
But we can celebrate him anyway because, by God, he deserves it.
He is the very best daddy they could ask for, the very best father I could hope for them, and we are so lucky that he is ours.
We’ve also got a few Father’s Day gifts up our sleeves (fingers crossed that Annie remembered that item he wanted at EMS… It was kind of touch and go in there for a while…). Even if we get it wrong, I know he’ll smile and thank them and pull them in for a hug. And then probably tickle them until they scream.
Because that’s what he does.