A Dad Discovers the Right Number

Hammer Nails Diaperpails

It’s hard to believe I’ll celebrate my 11th Father’s Day as a dad this year. My baby girl, Jessie, now 10, stands 5 feet tall. It doesn’t seem possible, but the numbers don’t lie.

We live in a world filled with numbers — dates, times, measurements, bank accounts, thermostat settings, weights, ages, house numbers, bills, paychecks, ball scores and much more.

Of course, some numbers are more important than others. I prefer Jessie’s grades to be in the 90s or 100. Being a college football fan, I hope my teams score more points than their opponent each Saturday. I don’t count the number of hairs on my head, but I’d rather it be bigger. It doesn’t take an auditor to know that some of them have gone missing in recent years.

During a recent Sunday afternoon, Jessie provided my wife, Mattie, and me with an interesting numbers challenge. Two weeks earlier, rather than leave Mattie’s home office unused while she was on a business trip, I set up Jessie’s tent and tunnels. Long ago, my girl outgrew the tent, a gift for her second birthday, but she still loves to play in it. Measuring just 4 feet long by 4 feet wide and 42 inches tall, the tent connects to one of four tunnels that came with it. Jessie had a blast playing with her dog, Sadie, in the tent and tunnels. She even slept in the tent during Mattie’s absence. Well, part of her slept in the tent. About half of the sleeping bag containing Jessie’s legs stretched out through the opening. The small tent held quite a bit — a girl, a dog, 14 stuffed animals, one pet pillow, three small pillows, three regular pillows and several blankets for padding.

When Mattie came home from her trip, Jessie asked to have one final party in the tent before we took it down. She planned the entire event from food to attire, so all her mom and I had to do was show up. Jessie handed me one of her headbands to wear, while Mattie lucked out with a tiara. Sadie looked cute in the feather boa Jessie wrapped around her neck. The people menu consisted of peanut butter cookies and Kool-Aid. Sadie’s plate held a spoonful of peanut butter, Rice Krispies and a few pieces of leftover chicken.

Now, here is where the numbers problem began. Jessie not only invited Mattie, Sadie, and me to the party, but also 14 stuffed animals. When Jessie throws a party, she throws a party!

I’ve heard about cramming people into things, such as a Volkswagen, phone booth, photo booth — even an outhouse. Mattie, Sadie, Jessie, 14 stuffed animals and I were about to take the “tent stuffing” challenge. At 6-feet-5-inches, I knew I would take up my fair share of the space. With 14 stuffed animals already arranged, Queen Mattie and Showgirl Sadie went in next. Jessie and I squeezed in last, with our cookie plates and Sadie’s snacks. We opted to leave the drinks outside the tent (smart thinking by Dad).

“Dad, don’t sit on Eeyore!”

Luckily, I didn’t sit on Sadie’s spoonful of peanut butter.

We all made it in, but after getting kicked, twice, within the first minute, I opted to enjoy my cookies and Kool-Aid from the outside looking in. I like it when blood flows to all my extremities, while not being chided for smashing a donkey. Prior to the conclusion of the party, we all crammed into the tent a second time for a “famie” photo (a selfie of our family).

Each day, numbers surround us. Sometimes we’re happy when the number is big, like a sunny winter day in the 70s. Other times, such as when looking down at the bathroom scale, small numbers are better. Some numbers speed by too quickly, like Jessie’s age, a number that will end in “teen” before I know it.

Is there such a thing as “the perfect number?” For a few minutes on a Sunday afternoon, we sure found a good one. I have a “famie” to prove it.

Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year career in banking, accounting and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad and author of a monthly column titled “moMENts.” Follow Hempfing at facebook.com/patricklhempfing and twitter.com/patrickhempfing.



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