My daughter and I have a daily routine. I put on a black bowler hat, she puts on a yellow sun hat. She nods to me, “Hello, Mister,” she says.

“Hello, Mister,” I echo back.

We shake hands.

We then do two laps around the house singing the following song: Mister and Mister are walking down the street. Mister and Mister are happy to meet you.

After the walk we turn to each other and I ask, “Where do you want to go, Mister?”

She answers, “to the movies, Mister.”

She hops in a little plastic blue boat and I hop in a little red car. We sit in our vehicles side-by-side and sway our bodies back and forth as if meandering down a quiet country road.

“We’re here!” Sage shouts after we’ve swayed back and forth about a dozen times.

“To the movies, Mister!” I say.

“Yes, Mister!” she echoes.

We exit our vehicles and walk arm-in-arm to the stairwell. We sit on the top step and proceed to stare at the wall. We do not talk.  We do not look at one another. We just pretend to watch an invisible movie. After about two minutes my two-and-a-half year-old rises quickly and says, “Good movie, Mister.”

“Yes, Mister. Good movie,” I confirm.

We take off our hats, shake hands, and continue the rest of our day as Sage and Mommy.

For some odd reason I find this fantasy to be incredibly satisfying. It leaves me feeling absolutely complete. It’s like a little Haiku; it’s like meditation. It relaxes me in a way that I can only compare to lying on the beach when it is perfectly sunny but not too hot. When we are playing “Mister and Mister” I just exist. It’s like a little scripted world and I know all my lines. I don’t have to think. I’m good at being “Mister”.

The other day, I was hiding away in the bedroom struggling to meet a deadline for work and feeling like a complete failure. I’d been trying to write the same sentence for the past hour and every attempt ended in a tangled mess of incoherent words. My husband was going to be late for a meeting if I didn’t emerge soon to take our daughter. I started feeling desperate. I began to hear a little “you suck” monologue in my head. I paced around. I kicked the wall. I ate some chocolate. I returned to the computer and gave it another go.

I failed yet again.

I paced around some more. I debated which window I would throw myself out of should I not be able to complete my assignment. I could hear my husband packing up his things, “I’ve got to go, love,” he gently reminded me.

“Leave, leave, leave” I barked back. “I’ll make this work somehow.”

I heard him exit out the back door. “I’ll be out in just one minute,” I called to Sage. “I’ve just got to write this one last sentence.”

She did not want to wait one minute. Before I could blink she was standing in the doorway holding out my black “Mister hat.”

“Let’s play Mister and Mister,” she begged.

“I can’t,” I huffed. ” I’m stuck, I need to figure out how to write something. It’s going to be a little bit longer.”

“You need to play Mister,” she insisted.

“But I really can’t,” I hissed.

My daughter looked at me like I’d just run over her heart with a tractor.

I put on my hat.

“Hello, Mister,” she said.

“Hello, Mister,” I echoed with far less enthusiasm than usual. We shook hands and began our laps around the house. As we looped past the dining room clock I paused.  I was almost certainly going to miss my deadline. I did not have time for Mister.

Sage immediately sensed my hesitation. She stopped in her tracks. “This is not how Mister goes!”

I took a deep breath. I debated trying to explain the way a deadline works and how Mommy is not only Mommy but also someone with a job who must make money so that we can eat. But when I looked down at her wearing her Mister hat, ready to have our daily adventure together, I just couldn’t.

“You’re right, Mister,” I apologized.

I took her hand and we continued. I followed the Mister script. Despite the impending deadline, despite the dread, I just did what Mister does. I walked, drove my plastic car, and watched an invisible movie. The power of my daughter’s play took over and despite my resistance it was absolutely lovely.

I still missed my deadline of course. The Mister hat is not an actual magic hat after all. It cannot make you go back in time and avoid the hours that you wasted on misguided ideas and ill articulated phrases. But I’m pretty sure that the brief escape into the world of Mister is what allowed me to eventually eke out that last little phrase that I’d been struggling with all day and press send on a document that ended up being pretty damn good.

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