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Being a Dad Means Working Without a Script

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Jeff Bogle

It was the kind of day from which postcards are born: blue skies, cool temps, big smiles, and kind hearts. We'd arrived at Pont du Gard in southern France with our eager 2 1/2-year-old daughter; eager to get out of her car seat, eager to run free, eager to discover what, exactly, was this aqueduct thingy mom and dad kept going on about. And what's a "Roman"?

We walked across the famed bridge, stared up in awe at the clever handy work of those industrious Romans, and looked down again to see where my precocious young lady had gone, oh right there, behind my left leg. Why are children always hiding behind adult legs -- that's the last place we'd look. Oh, that's why. Now I get it.

We continued our walk along the river, picking up stones and tossing them into the eau (Fancy Nancy would want me to tell you that that's a fancy word for "water'). On the other side of a U-turn in the pathway, we all spied steps leading upward to the heavens. My girl was the first to sprint up a dozen with her chubby legs, pause, and excitedly motion for my wife and I to follow suit. She was, even then, leading the way forward. She stopped to pose for pictures along the way up the side of the hill, photographs that, in her bright blue long sleeved shirt, would end up being some of the best I'd ever snap of her or of anything before or since, and then the paved portion of the trail disappeared without warning and we continued forward on dirt and through bushes. Just us and the birds, getting closer to the sky. We couldn't stop, not yet, there was more of everything to explore, so higher we climbed. When the pinnacle was reached, we looked down on the impressive aqueduct as friends and countrymen might have many centuries earlier. Precisely at that moment, while we all caught our breath from the hike and from the sight of a structure so awe inspiring, my 2 1/2-year-old proclaimed, literally from the tallest mountain, "I have to go potty."

At times during the weeks and months after she'd ditched diapers and grew out of the need for Pull Ups, I'd still have one in the bag, a relic from what seemed like another time and place, and I'd have her put it on, drop her número deux, and we'd joke together that she was still a tiny baby. My girl found this hilarious and, thankfully, it never caused a relapse in her potty training. But at Pont du Gard on this day there was no leftover Pamper or Huggie to be found, so we did what we had to do: my toddler dropped trou and dropped a deuce outdoors in France. When in Rome, as they say.

My first-born daughter's unique tradition of leaving behind, um, pieces of herself in France would continue five years later when one of her loose teeth was actually lost in Paris. I danced circles around her tears that night in the hotel and poetically explained why that's the most magical place EVER to lose a tooth. It worked. While she's lost some of herself abroad, she's been bequeathed a pair of anecdotes to regale her friends and family for the rest of her days. A more than fair trade.

Fatherhood is full of unscripted moments like these. To excel at it, or at least to keep our heads above water, we dads must be nimble enough every single day to make hyper quick decisions as we zigzag through this or that or the other thing, and sometimes, we must allow, nay, encourage our little kids to poop on the side of a mountain overlooking a Roman treasure. Pass the fig leaves. That's how we roll.

*Remind me to tell you about what my youngest child once gave back to Malibu. Yuck.

This story was taken from a larger Father's Day post on Jeff's site Out With The Kids. You can follow Out With The Kids on Facebook.