I made Tator Tot casserole. This time was no different than the other 900 times I’ve mixed a pound of hamburger with a few cans of soup, thrown in beans, topped it with fried potatoes shaped like miniature bales of hay and called it supper.
I know, mom. I know.
It’s simple, cheap and something my girls love to eat. It’s made often in our home. But this time, one distinct item was missing from the recipe.
My girls’ dad, or husband to me, left for a work trip. He’s been away before, but as the girls grow older and more attached to their father, it’s harder for them to say goodbye.
“Mom, tonight at supper, I’m going to sit where Daddy would sit,” my almost 7-year-old Ella said on day two of Daddy’s 4 day work trip.
She followed with, “Mom, please pass the ketchup. I want to smear it on top like Daddy does…”
And then the tears fell, right on top of those Tator Tots.
I’ve seen this before. It’s a common occurrence with a daddy’s girl. Ella definitely fits that description. Her baby sister, Grace isn’t far behind. And it’s awesome. I’m thankful for the love they have for their daddy. It’s everything I dreamed, prayed and hoped it would be. A daughter’s relationship with her father is an incredibly special bond that will last a lifetime. I pray they will find a man just like him, someone who will respect and love and cherish every ounce of their beings. This is what I wanted. I’m so lucky.
That’s what I told myself, anyway when Ella was bawling on her tots. At some point, no matter how thrilled I am with their relationship, I’d like to be thrown a bone, too.
“Ella, sweet girl, it’s OK to be sad. But mom’s here, and daddy will be home in a couple days,” I said cheerfully.
She smirked. Mom is a consolation prize. I think this will always be so.
But here’s my truth. I am deeply and forever loved by those two little girls. Here’s how I know.
I am Ella. My three older sisters fit that category, too. Gosh we love our dad. In our eyes, he is perfect, gentle, caring, compassionate, kind and loving. We love to be his girls. Ask any of us, we think we’re some of the luckiest women on earth to be loved by such a wonderful man.
I recently posted a selfie of me and my dad on Facebook. It’s the cool thing to do, of course. Plus, I’m a proud daughter. It was a simple post that read, “Love you, Dad.” My sisters echoed their sentiments.
And then our mom left a comment, too. She said, “You girls can’t possibly love him as much as he loves you all.”
And in that moment, one simple sentence opened my eyes to something I hadn’t seen before. It hit me. Mom’s been living this life, too. I have a sneaky feeling it’s everything she ever hoped, prayed and dreamed it would be, also.
But now I know how she feels. Now I know what it’s like to raise daddy’s girls. And now I worry, did we throw her a bone?
To our mom and to all the moms who don’t hear it enough. You are loved and you are wonderful. I hope you’ve known this all along. Thank you for loving us with an unconditional love that grows strong even to this day. Thank you for being the best mom we could have hoped for.
And thank you for teaching us how to make Tator Tot casserole. I’d cry in it for you, too.