Tess and I made our way back to dig for more dinosaur bones. But a few scoops in, she said the one phrase that alarms me as a blind parent, no matter where we are.
“Where’s the bathroom?”
I stared out at the big 128-acre blur of nothing in front of me.
“For real,” she said.
Her voice had a familiar quiver in it. She was already frustrated by my inability to do what she needed the moment she needed it. Often it’s fun to be in charge, taking the lead, when you’re 6. Then, at a moment like this, I can feel Tess’s burden. For real.
I grabbed her hand and let Tess kite me about the park, my 6-year-old frantically trying to intuit a way to the restroom. We swerved and angled as people pointed her up this path and that, past flying helicopters and a fountain that made music. I could sense her urgency brimming. She clipped me against benches and other children, until we suddenly stopped. Was it too late?
“Actually,” she said, “let’s go on this ride first.”
She had meandered us into the line for the Coastersaurus. Its call had overtaken nature’s.
Back in our room that night, Tess unlocked the treasure chest. Inside was something to build. A leafy tree. To think, Legoland and all our play over the years comes from something so small. Just a brick. One at a time, until here we are, a father and daughter playing side by side.
Tess opened the directions and asked for help. This is where our childhoods, and our Legos, differ. She only wants to build what the directions say. I don’t. I can’t. So instead of the tree, I rigged together an octopus. Tess immediately took it apart.
“That’s not how you play, Papa. Let me show you.”
And once again, as always, I followed her lead.