The Pacing Father

. May 27, 2016.

In a few weeks, I’ll be celebrating my 12th Father’s Day.  I remember the evening I became a father and held my baby girl for the first time in the hospital delivery room. Recently, a different kind of delivery— cupcakes— made me realize that fathers spend a lot of time waiting, often under stressful conditions.

The day before my daughter, Jessie’s birthday, she and I went to the bakery section of the grocery store and ordered 48 cupcakes— a dozen vanilla and three-dozen chocolate.  Jessie asked for buttercream icing with rainbow colors, topped with sprinkles.  I emphasized, “Please have them ready by 9:30 tomorrow morning.”  

My job was to deliver the cupcakes to Jessie’s school by 10:45 a.m., so she could share them with her friends at recess. I arrived at the bakery at 9:45. The employee behind the counter was decorating a cake.

“Good morning.  I’d like to pick up the cupcakes I ordered yesterday.”  I gave her my name.

Waiting on cupcakes

“Oh, I was getting ready to call you.  I couldn’t read the writing on the order form.  How many dozen did you want?”

My heart sank.  She hadn’t even started yet?  I calmly explained my order from the previous day and asked, “Would you please, please hurry.  I need to be out of here no later than 10:10.”  
She looked at me sternly and said, “I’m finishing this cake order now.  The cupcakes are made; I only need to decorate them.”

I paced up the aisle past the muffins and pies.  I paced down the aisle alongside the donuts and bread.  The thought of snacking on a donut for comfort crossed my mind.  I kept walking by the bakery to monitor the progress.  Finally, the decorator grabbed four clear-plastic containers and filled each slot with a cupcake.  She put white icing in her cone-shaped pastry bag and squeezed a swirl on each cupcake.  I complimented her for doing it quickly, trying to motivate her to finish as soon as possible. The clock was ticking.

As I paced, it occurred to me that 11 years ago to the day, I paced outside of my wife’s operating room.  Mattie had a C-section and I had to wait in the hall until I was escorted in.  I vividly remember walking back and forth in front of the door, trying to stay calm.  Apparently, little has changed.  

On one of my strolls past the cake decorator, she asked what colors I wanted.  By this time, it didn’t matter.  “How about pink, yellow and green?” she asked.   I gave a quick approval and paced some more.  A few times I stopped and peeked over the counter to check her progress.  Then something else hit me.

Drawing similarities

Eleven years ago, I could have looked over the blue paper that divided Mattie’s top half from her bottom half where they were working on the C-section.  That time, instead of monitoring the progress, I opted to remain firmly in the chair by Mattie’s head.  There was no way I was going to peek at the procedure.  Now, at 10:07 a.m., I finally stood in the checkout line with four-dozen cupcakes.  They weren’t cheap.  Again, I thought back 11 years – the cupcakes were a lot less expensive than the hospital bills that followed Jessie’s birth.

I rushed home to pick up Mattie, and the plates, napkins and drinks.  We made it to Jessie’s school a few minutes early, and the knots in my stomach began to loosen. Jessie’s friends enjoyed the cupcakes, though vanilla was more popular than we expected, and I worried we’d run out and be left with just chocolate.  How could cupcakes be so stressful?  We left the playground with two vanilla cupcakes and lots of chocolate ones remaining.  Eleven years earlier, I left the hospital with one beautiful baby girl.

That beautiful girl now bakes me something special each year for Father’s Day.  When she’s creating masterpieces in the kitchen, she usually directs me, “Don’t look.”  If she asks that this year, I’ll try not to pace or peek at what’s going on, even if my kitchen becomes a sprinkle-covered disaster zone.  Instead, I’ll make every effort to relax and reflect on the joy of being a father.  Until next month, remember to cherish the moments.  Happy Father’s Day!


Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year professional career in banking,
accounting, and auditing before he became a father at age 44. 
He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad, and writer. 
Follow Patrick at and on Twitter @PatrickHempfing.