Thankfully my daughter, Ava, is only 4 years old (almost) and it’ll probably be a while before she’s asking me to ‘drop her off a few blocks away from the mall’ or wear a paper bag over my head when I pick her up from the school dance… so I’ve got to take advantage of this precious time that she still wants to spend with me.
I know I’ve mentioned it before, but for the sake of those readers who can’t get to every one one of my posts (I take it personally), I’ve been fortunate enough to be inducted into the parenting hall of fame!
They don’t have one of those, do they? I’d imagine a prerequisite would be shaving and not wearing pajamas during pre-school drop-off, so I probably wouldn’t qualify even if it did exist.
I have, however, been lucky enough to be welcomed into Target’s Inner Circle. We’re a small group of 20 social influencers that work directly with Target to deliver a behind-the-scenes look inside this amazing retail giant.
One of my first opportunities with them was a few weeks ago, when Ava and I flew to California to experience the Target-sponsored premiere of Disney’s Planes at the El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. I’ve already told you a little about the premiere itself, but didn’t have a chance to elaborate on what it took to get us there…
…I remember hearing my phone ring on a Wednesday morning, as I stood on the front lawn of our new house, directing movers left and right, as they unloaded our belongings inside and stacked them on the floor.
“Hey Adrian, would you be interested in flying to LA this weekend for a movie premiere… with your daughter?” they asked.
I hesitated for a moment, as I looked into a houseful of mini-cardboard pyramids, unsure of where I would even find underwear or pants to wear the next day, let alone pack both of us to fly across the country by Sunday.
But I couldn’t pass up this opportunity – my first solo trip with my daughter since she was born and an epic one at that. I told them we were IN, hung up, walked inside the house amongst my sea of cardboard and bubble wrap and hit the panic button.
It took my wife and I almost two days of ripping through boxes to find our clothes and suitcases, but we did it. I loaded the car up on Sunday morning, put my daughter in the backseat and told her that we were going back to California, our former home where she was born only a few years before.
She is always excited to tell people that she was born there. It’s like one of these funny things she tells people (phonetically) when she first meets them. “Hi, I’m Ava and I was born in Call-ee-for-knee-ahh!”
The ride to Dulles airport was pretty uneventful and if this view driving down the George Washington Parkway that morning was any indication, we’d have clear skies and I’d have no trouble whatsoever getting a toddler onto the plane, moving towards our final destination.
We passed through security with ease and the TSA allowed Ava to keep her shoes on (must be nice to be a kid) and even let her swing the x-ray wand around a few times at passing travelers for good measure.
We got some breakfast and as we sat in the waiting area at our gate, I couldn’t help but look at my daughter and feel like she was all grown up. Perhaps it was because we were alone and her younger brother, Charlie, wasn’t there to distract her by sticking his finger in her ear or trying to lick the cream cheese from her bagel, but still.
She sat there calmly… like this was old hat… like she’d done this a thousand times before.
This wasn’t like most of our trips in the past, my wife and I scrambling to find a pacifier or bottle of milk to help her eardrums pop as the wheels peeled off the ground and we climbed into the clouds.
She was chilled out, LITERALLY reading SkyMall magazine, telling me what she wanted for her next birthday.
A floating poker table? Sure, we don’t even have a pool, but who cares, I’m in a great mood. Statue of Bigfoot? This is definitely my daughter.
She had already burned through the new apps I put on the iPad and was having trouble keeping her headphones on, because ‘they were itchy’. I was just hoping that she didn’t get too irritated and pull a D.B. Cooper and jump from the plane with her FEED BAG full of Target goodies that my wife had assembled for her.
Years later, rumors of her escape surfacing… instead of burned up currency, search teams would find her aged Annie’s bunny snacks, Happy Family breakfast smoothies, Care Bears grab bags or cupcake sticker book… and piece together why her 37-year old dad couldn’t keep his toddler content during a simple commercial flight.
She grew restless and had to pee. No problem, I thought. I can handle this. Normally my wife would take her, because she’s more familiar with the intricacies of women using the bathroom in a public place, which makes it a bit easier. But I’ve done it a million times, at the grocery store, at Target (wink wink), highway rest stops – you get the drift.
I’m not the biggest guy in the crowd, but I’m definitely not the smallest. As Ava and I entered the airplane bathroom so that I could help her ‘go potty’, I realized how little square footage was actually available.
I struggled to (double and triple) line the seat for her with toilet rings, banged my elbows off of the soap dispenser and hit my head and jammed my neck on the ceiling.
I felt as if the flight was pretty smooth up until the exact minute Ava had to pee — and now, it felt like we were being showcased in a local air show. Was this pilot waiting until now to do barrel rolls as he cruised by the grandstand??
She took her turn and I took mine, as I loudly reminded her NOT to open the door while I was mid-stream. We washed our hands and I’ll have to admit, Ava and I were a great team – I held the sink on for her and she did the same for me. We high-fived and headed back to our seats.
I have to admit that it was comforting, watching over the City of Angels as we looked out the window and approached the runway at LAX.
I’d done this flight a million times in the 14 years that I’d lived there and can’t help but feel like it’s my second home. Our first two kids were born there and my youngest brother still lives in Venice Beach.
It wasn’t long before we had picked up our rental car, checked into the hotel and walked down to the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica to meet up with ‘Uncle Travis’ (as he’s known by Ava) to catch up.
I also bought Ava her first car. I hope she enjoys it when she’s 16.
The funniest part about this photo is the fact that I didn’t realize how in love she actually was with the car. She refused to get off. I think she thought it was some sort of ride and was asking me when it would start moving. After negotiating some ‘candy TBD later’, we were on our way.
As we finished our walk along the promenade, buying soft pretzels, balloons and a new pair of Converse for Ava, Trav suggested that we visit the Water Grill. I hadn’t been there since it was the Ocean Ave. Seafood. Recently renovated and right on the Pacific, we had amazing seafood and the best time.
He took this picture of Ava and I as we finished up dinner and as I look at it, I realize that I’ve never been so in love with my daughter.
She hugged and leaned on me the entire time we were gone. It’s a memory that I’ll never forget.
The next day, the day of the premiere, we grabbed lunch with my old friend Amy, a full-time stay-at-home mom and blogger that writes Carriage Before Marriage.
Since I’d left LA, we remained online buddies, but actually getting together with the girls was amazing. Viv and Ava had a blast doing flash cards and eating pizza.
Amy and I had fun ‘cursing in code’ and winking a lot when we knew the parenting conversation was turning down a dark alley.That afternoon, we went back downstairs to our room. I put Ava in a bubble bath and I jumped in the shower. As I was ironing both of our matching outfits (Dusty Crophopper’s colors but don’t tell anyone), Ava began to break down. She was missing Mommy and I wasn’t sure how to comfort her. She wanted milk, which I had room service bring up. What I forgot was that she likes ‘warm’ milk, not ‘cold’, so I got creative and used the bathroom blow dryer to bring it up to temperature. I let her hold the glass while I worked the hot air and it seemed like she had forgotten about missing mommy.
I explained to her that we were about to do this ‘amazing’ thing together and that I was so happy we could be together for this. It took some effort (and a bag of 10 dollar minibar gummi bears), but we eventually hopped in the car for our ultimate destination…
My daughter is standing on a blocked-off Hollywood Boulevard with me, about to go to the World Premiere of a massive Disney movie. ‘Pretty cool’, I thought.
Afterwards, on the way back to the hotel to pack, we managed to stop for a late dinner at Kifune, a sushi restaurant down the street from where we once lived. It was here, in this same restaurant that I’d proposed to my wife, at table 52, back in 2007. Jen and I shared so many meals here – not just our engagement, but the eve of Ava’s birth.
As tired as we were, I attempted to explain to Ava the importance of the booth we were sitting in, how much it meant to me. She nodded and told me that ‘she needed a rest’ and that we should get back to the hotel. I know this was a secret ploy to get back and see if the staff had replaced those minibar gummi bears… and that was fine by me.
I’ll never forget these two days I had with my daughter.
You’re my girl and I love you, Ava.