The assignment was a killer: Show my daughter a typical day of work when there is no such thing, in a job where much of what I encounter is not age-appropriate.
So we'd go on a column hunt. Think Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but without the stolen car or disguises. Traipsing across Philadelphia on foot last week, my firstborn saw the mayor, met a judge, joined a union protest, and paid a street performer out of her allowance.
"A quarter isn't enough if that's his job," Jane reasoned, fishing a dollar from her duct-tape wallet.
She photographed flighty subjects, pigeons dining on crumbs from a Famous 4th Street cookie. Discovering a convention of math teachers, Jane quizzed one: "Do you know what two million plus 2,000 equals?"
Mary Kay Tempesta knew the answer. The educator from near Scranton added that she'd just met a teacher from Iraq.
"Enjoy the day exploring with your mom," replied Tempesta. "My kids had to go to school with me."
Leafing through Jane's notebook at the end of the day, I spy nothing about journalism, but giggle at a drawing that may sum up her view of my weird job: a man relieving himself on City Hall.
Making a memory
When Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen criticized would-be first lady Ann Romney's thin resumé, the implication was that Romney's wealth made her out of touch with American women. Lost in the uproar: that women spending 10 hours a day away - by necessity or choice - can feel out of touch with their kids.
Guilt consumes mothers who work outside the home. Never more so than when a child wants to see what we do when we're gone.
Ms. magazine created "Take Our Daughters to Work Day" 20 years ago to boost girls' self-esteem. Boys joined the theoretical fun in 2003.
Who takes whom where depends on the whims of the young and the patience of the middle-aged. One at-home mom friend reported that her son weighed his options and deemed cooking, cleaning, and running errands "too much work." So he fled with Dad.
At the crowded City Hall kickoff Thursday morning, Jane and I learned from Mayor Nutter that 37 million kids were visiting 3.5 million workplaces. Which meant 37 million employees lost an hour of productivity plotting ways to make their jobs seem fun.
I love what I do, but who'd want to watch me answer e-mail and talk on the phone? As a kid, I shadowed a reporter and nearly fell asleep. As a mom, I vowed to deliver excitement. Or, at least, a memory.
When good guys are bad?
"Presatints [sic] have been in my seat!" Jane scribbled in red felt-tip marker in her reporter's notebook as a historian described other VIPs who've graced the ornate Mayor's Reception Room. My daughter dutifully noted that City Hall has 88 million bricks, but zoned out when the talk turned to recycling.
"This is boring," she whispered. It was 10:30 a.m. Time to move on.
A stop to get my press pass renewed offered a lesson in post-9/11 security, as the photo-taker explained that people can't just waltz into the building like the old days.
"Because bad guys want to hurt the mayor?" Jane surmised as the security worker nodded.
Eating lunch in the Reading Terminal, Jane met a former federal prosecutor who made a career out of judging right from wrong. Outside SEPTA headquarters, we stumbled into a transit workers' protest.
"They want buses and trains to be safe," Jane said. Who wouldn't?
As for her attempt at news art?
After popping into the Criminal Justice Center to pick up a document, we chatted with a court worker about being surrounded by those who break, and uphold, the law.
Sometimes, he told us, it's tough to tell folks apart. Like the time he caught a cop urinating on the side of City Hall - in uniform.
Our informer described the scene as Jane sketched an image I guarantee my daughter, the pigtailed student of life, will never forget.
She cried when we left the newsroom but does not long to follow my lead. Journalism seemed fun, but she gets hand cramps writing. For now, she wants to be an actor.