The Fundamentals of “Patty-Cake”

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Patty-cake, patty-cake, baker’s man. Bake me a cake as fast as you can. There I am, sitting in my dad’s lap with legs crossed, rolling and patting the dough. I wriggle with excitement as my favorite part gets closer when Dad will “mark it with a ‘K,’ just for me.” As he traces the first letter of my name into the imaginary cake, I grab his finger and imagine the letter on its surface in bright pink frosting, which I always tell him to use. Now put it in the oven for Daddy and me.

Though it’s been a while since I made a cake in my dad’s lap, I can remember our little game quite well. Besides, it was more than a game; it was our special routine. Once he came home from work, changed his clothes, and settled in his chair, I knew that my time had come. I would scramble into his lap and wait for the show to begin. “Patty-Cake” was a must, with a few renditions of “You Are My Sunshine” thrown in on occasion. Even now I can feel that simple but deeply satisfying contentment of having my dad’s full attention, no matter its duration, and the pleasure of playing with him.

Children still want that moment with their daddies, that special time to just be with their dads and hold their full attention. Many kids today, however, don’t have a designated time with their dads on a regular basis. They have learned to not look forward to a session of “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” or count on Dad to pat his knee for a ride on the “horsey” when he comes home from work. Why? Their dads are tired; they work long hours, have stressful jobs, and deal with the adult problems of money and bills and such. Now more than ever, the pressures of life have consumed dads’ lives and erased the idea of a spare moment. Children may not know why they are so busy and exhausted, but they do know that their dads are not available to them when they come home and grow to not expect much from their bone-tired dads.

Dads have precious little time; kids want those precious moments with their dads. How can there be a solution? A dad doesn’t need to consult his Blackberry to schedule time with his children; he only needs to commit to giving his full attention, even for just a few minutes, to his kids on a regular basis. What does this entail? A dad could plan read a story to his little ones before bed each night. If he has time in the morning, he can share breakfast with them and start a tradition of “Waffle Wednesdays,” even of the toaster-ready frozen variety. For that dad facing daily time crunches, five minutes of talking to his son or daughter while he or she sits in his lap conveys genuine affection to the child. Children respond to routine, and they want to be able to count on their dads for personal “Daddy time.” Thus, daily, sincere efforts to spend time with them truly impacts children in so many lasting ways.  

Time is fleeting, but so are those moments left for dads to spend with their children. One day soon, those little arms won’t reach up to their dads for an embrace; those small hands won’t clap if “they’re happy and they know it.” Time is precious, so Dads, take some time for your precious little ones before your cake is out of the oven.  

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