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Has Your Child Ever Mistakenly Called Someone Dad?

Over the weekend my father took us on our annual tree-shopping run. Since JD’s first Christmas my dad has always taken us tree shopping—call it a tradition. It was warm, sunny and hoody-appropriate weather. The tree lot smelled of Earth, dirt and pine.

JD wiggled his hand out from mine and ran into a row of trees. “I want this one! I want that one! That one is huge!”

My eyes were switching from JD to a sea of green. I wanted a medium tree to accommodate our living space. As it is, JD’s little art table that sits by the living room windows is currently stationed in my bedroom until 1/2/12.

A kid in a plaid shirt, jeans that hung so his boxers showed and a Santa cap approached us. “Can I help you guys out,” he asked. I went to speak, but my father completely cut me off. “I want a nice, full tree and I want a fresh cut,” he said. So the kid walked us over to a mini version of what’s standing in Rockefeller Center right now. It would have taken up my entire living room. I walked everyone over to a smaller tree and the kid said, “Oh no, that’s like a Mickey Mouse tree!” JD chimed in, “I love Mickey Mouse!” I think the kid was attempting to reference the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. We didn’t get that one.

My father picked out trees that I immediately nixed for size. “Dad, no,” I said. “Dad, really?” I asked. “Dad, I mean, that tree is bigger than my living room.” "Dad-Dad-Dad-Dad." Then a little voice chimed in, “Look at this one, Dad! Come on!” And it was JD and I froze. I think he called my Dad “Dad” because he heard me say “No Dad” 17 times in a row, but nonetheless, I’d never heard my child say Dad in a way that he attached it to someone. He's asked about his Dad, but never has he mistakenly called someone Dad. Everything around me seemed to go on mute. My Dad was standing behind my son with his hand on his head. People walked in slow motion and pointed at big lush trees. I squinted up at the sun and a snapshot appeared in my brain: JD’s dad and I walking to Rockefeller Center after a meal of sushi. It was cold and we were sharing candies from a little white bag. Those little pink and red jelly candies with the hard, tiny candy dots on them. “This one, Mom,” JD said tugging at my hand and I felt myself turn back on. And this moment was really only 60 seconds, but it felt like a day.

I could have let this moment slip away. I could have pretended it didn’t happen, but I thought I needed to react. “Silly, that’s not Dad, that’s Poppy!” I said walking over to the tree. “Poppy is my Dad,” I said. I waited for JD to ask about his Dad. He didn’t. We took the tree ticket inside to pay. As with tradition, JD picked out a new ornament. “I want those,” he said, pointing to a pair of glittery socks in a clear package. “One for me and one for you, Mom.”

Has your child ever mistakenly called someone Dad? How did you handle it?

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