Dina knows: Life needs more desserts :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
I've barely returned from a short trip when my 4-year-old daughter Dina reminds me there's something important I promised to do.
Moments after I walk into our home, Dina hugs me and calls out the magic words that instantly trigger my memory.
"Is it time to make the milkshake yet?" she asks. This may sound like a question, but it's really the latest in a series of intense lobbying efforts.
"Soon," I say.
I have promised Dina for at least a week that we'd make a milkshake together, but we never got around to it. I was too busy. It was too close to her bedtime. She didn't eat enough for dinner, or perhaps, I thought she had too many sweets that day. Now, though, her request reminds me of how much I have missed her unabashed joy for life, even if I've only been gone for a couple of days.
First, though, she'll have to wait a little longer. My wife Nancy and I put Dina and her 1-year-old sister Ally down for a nap. Then, it's time to do some chores before dinner. When we eat, Dina reluctantly takes one last bite of chicken. She has told me she doesn't understand why dinner comes before dessert, though she gamely rearranges the food on her plate to convince me she's eaten a full meal.
"Now?" she asks, unable to contain herself any longer. "Strawberry milkshake?"
I pause. There are many moments with my daughter-sometimes very long moments-when I know I have to urge some kind of restraint.
Moments when Dad has to prevail, since he knows it's best not to cave in to whatever a child wants. Moments when he should really preach the value of discipline instead of the pleasures of appetite.
"Now!" I suddenly say, realizing that this is not one of those moments.
I am ready for our overdue adventure and feed off of her enthusiasm. I now feel we must make the best milkshake in the long and distinguished history of milkshakes.
"What do we need?" I ask my daughter.
Dina points to the freezer, where she knows the holy grail-a pint of strawberry ice cream-is safely housed. After that, though, she draws a blank.
I take out the ice cream and assemble the basic necessities: a half-gallon of milk, a big spoon and one of those old-fashioned blenders with buttons labeled "whip," "liquefy" and "blend."
Dina pleads with me to put her on the counter, closer to the ice cream, blender and all the action.
I tell her I will if she heeds the single most important fact of our production: She can never, ever put her hand anywhere near the inside of the blender–no matter what.
I repeat this lesson until she tells me she understands that she could get hurt and can never play with anything sharp at home unless it's OK with me or her mom. I watch her carefully just to be sure.
I am, I guess, full of lessons today, though most of them are not as urgent. I also explain to her why there's a date on the carton of milk (No, it's not the milk's birthday, I explain. In fact it's kind of like the opposite.) and why it's not the best idea to lick the spoon before dipping it back inside the half-finished carton of ice cream for more.
Dina doesn't quite grasp this last concept.
I understand, since I'm a repeat spoon licking offender myself, though I've tried to modify my ways since becoming a parent.
Soon, the moment of truth is here.
I let Dina press "blend," but she is frightened by the rattling, whirring sound of the old contraption. She leaps into my arms and begs to get off the counter.
My daughter, though, isn't about to give up, not with so much at stake; she just needs to regroup.
She relocates to the next room, within clear view of the milkshake show. I start the blender up again, stop it and lift out a spoonful for her to sample. I am a little wary, as I know I'm in the company of a child who is good friends with the word no.
"Needs more ice cream," she says. I try a spoonful. She is absolutely right.
Now, though, I have to level with my daughter. We're almost out of ice cream and it's just about bedtime.
This is it. We have no choice but to make this the last try.
I let her scoop the ice cream one more time-and, yes, lick the spoon clean as I pretend not to watch. This time, though, she seems a little less scared of the blender's ferocious whir and asks me to put her on the floor, just a few feet away from the counter. Even the volcanic eruptions of this blender can't dim her quest for a milkshake.
"Ready, set, go!" she bellows as I give it one more shot. I stop the blender after a few seconds and slowly take off the lid. Then I carefully pour Dina a small cup of the concoction and another one for myself.
Dina takes a sip. Then a bigger sip. I'm hopeful, but I can't read her yet.
Then-gulp! She puts down the cup. My 4-year-old has a big milkshake mustache and an even bigger grin on her face. We toast our achievement.
As she drinks her milkshake, Dina is giddy with joy and wants to surprise her mom.
Suddenly, with her treat in hand, my daughter has found what she's looking for.
Lucky for me, so have I.
Dan Baron is a Chicago writer. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org