Wednesday, April 30, 2008

good morning, my ass

or, the case of the grumpy daddy.

this morning:

"okay, let's pick out some clothes."

bottom drawer is opened, every single shirt is considered before settling on a pink long sleeve number with stars or fireworks or something.

"now let's get bottoms on you." a five year old finger points at the closet. "yes, all the bottoms are in there." a grunt. "go pick something."

"i need you to come with me."

"you need me to move three feet over into the closet?" nods. a sigh. "okay, but let's pick something good." we move. she sits on my lap. she looks up, scans skirts, reaches, snags one, pulls on it until the hanger lets it go. "do you want to wear leggings with that?"

"nooooooo! i hate leggings."

"you do? why do you hate leggings?"

"noooooooo! i don't want to wear them!"

"fine. you don't have to wear them, but why do you hate them? they're just like stretchy pants."

"noooooooo!!! i don't want to wear them."

"i understand that. you don't have to wear leggings, but it's kind of cold out, so maybe we should pick some pants." skirt is waved around like a flag.

"i don't want to wear pants."

"fine, but you need something on your legs for cold."

"i want to wear tights."

We scoot out of the closet and from her drawer i pull out ever single pair of tights and hose and explain why it doesn't match even remotely or wiggle my finger through holes in the tights.

"see? you don't have any tights or hose you can wear. are you sure you don't just want some leggings?"

"I hate leggings! they hurt me."

"fine. but you're going to be cold, but that's all right. you probably won't go out to play at school anyway. they'll keep you inside."



"i want to wear pants."

"okay, let's pick some pants."

skirt is retrieved from floor, put back on hanger. pants drawer is opened. tan capris with pink belt proffered.

"nooooooooo!" oh the horror.

"how about these?" pink plaid pants. "no, they don't really match."

"i don't wanna wear them!"

"well, relax, you're not going to."

"you have all these leggings. why did we even buy them?"

"Nooooooooooo! I don't want to wear leggings."

"and. you. are. not. going. to. wear. them. what about these jeans?"


"this pair?"

a nod of the head. success. i pull off her jammie bottoms and pull on her jeans.

"it's hurting me. it's too tight. they hurt my bottom. why did you do that?! why did you put these pants on me!?" she pulls jeans off and throws them on the floor.

"okay, let's pick another pair."

"noooo. i want that pair."


"will you help me put them on?"

"yes." i pull them up her leg again.

"noooooo!!! they're too tight."

"here, let me loosen them." inside strap is unbuttoned on one side, the elastic is withdrawn back into the pants and a looser button position is picked on strap. I reach to the other side to loosen that side. my hand is pushed away.

"that's loose enough."


"i said that's loose enough!"

"and i said, okay."

pants are buttoned and zipped.

"now let's get some socks on you." sock drawer opened.

"I want pink."

sock drawer is surveyed, no pink socks in evidence. a purplish pink pair that i know are too small is offered. a shake of the head. i pull out the only pink-pink pair in evidence, a pair of strawberry shortcake ankle socks.

"yes, yes, yes."

i put them on her feet.

"my socks huuuuurrrrt." socks are removed and then socks are put back on with lots of bagginess and room. "they hurrrrrrt."

"can we try a different pair of socks?"

"nooooo!" she throws head back and lies on floor sobbing. "i waaaaannnttt theeese socks." patiently, socks are removed a second time and put on again. "theeeyyyy hurrrrrrt." again, socks are removed, replaced on. "how's that?" sniffles. nods.

"all right. let's go downstairs."

"i want pablo." her blue stuffed penguin is retrieved from the bed.

"let's get moving, come on, downstairs."

we go downstairs. i put one shoe on her.

"it huuuurrrrttts." i take it off, adjust the sock, try to get the shoe on again. she jerks it off her foot, tries to adjust her sock. i try to get the shoe on again, but the back of it folds over as i try to get her foot into it without moving her sock a fraction of an inch. "you're doing it wrong!" she declares, throws back her head and howls out a sob. "yooooouuuuuu'rrrre dooooooiiiinnnggg it wrong!" i try again, get it right. move on the other shoe. after six similar attempts, it is sufficiently done.

after a bit of asking, asking again, asking a third time, after i run back upstairs for the right kind of toothpaste, she starts to brush her teeth. when she's done, she comes to me and shows me how they shine, then asks,

"can i have a popsicle for breakfast?"

"that's not really a good breakfast, honey."

"but i want one. mommy lets me have one." mommy did indeed let her have a popsicle for breakfast earlier in the week. why? the mind boggles. supercomputers that can calculate the trillionth position of pi in fifteen seconds are hard at work formulating an answer, but as of yet, no answers can be found.

"well, it's not really a good breakfast even if it is juice and milk." (mommy's words from earlier: "they are low in sugar" float through my brain. wouldn't it just be easier to give in than to fight?)

"but i want one."

i shake pink frosted mini-wheats into a ziploc. "this is your breakfast."

"not a lot, daddy, not a lot. just a little. i'll eat those and then i'll eat a popsicle."

"fine. eat all of these and then you can have a popsicle. i have to finish getting read, so you go sit at the table and eat these."

she takes bag from me. she walks into dining room. i leave kitchen by other doorway and go to bathroom to brush teeth.

when i come out, she's sitting on the living room floor, holding her cat, sparrow.

"are you done eating already?" i ask, then i see the bag of cereal on the floor, unopened. "honey, you have to eat your wheat or you're not going to get a popsicle."

"but she wanted me to pet her. she looked at me."

"that's fine, but you have to eat your wheat." she opens the bag with one hand tightly clenching the cat, the ziploc waving in the cats face. "not here. i don't want pink wheat crumbs on the floor. that's why i said eat at the table." crunching commences with wheat falling on cat, kid, and new rug. "not here," i repeat. "come on, we have to go. i don't think you're going to get a popsicle."

she throws herself on the floor, begins sobbing at top of lungs. "i waaaaannnnnnttt a popsicle. mooooooommmmmy lets me have one."

"but you're not eating your breakfast."

"i aaaaaammmmm," she sobs through mouthful of pink mashed strings of spun wheat.

i walk to kitchen. "let's go. come on."

she comes in, snot running down nose, eyes streaming tears. "poooopppppppsicle."

"honey, you haven't eaten your breakfast. i said eat your breakfast and you can have one."

she tries to climb on stool to open freezer. i remove her from stool, her legs flailing and kicking in every direction. i set her down, she flops on floor.

"that's it. let's go." i open freezer, grab popsicle, shove it into my pocket. then i unlock back door and step out on to deck. she follows me, then runs into yard, still clutching her pablo penguin and her bag of pink miniwheats. "come on, get in the car. we have to go."

"poooooooooooooooppppsicle! pooooooooooopppppsicle!"

i get in the car. i shut door. i honk horn. i roll down window to hear: "pooooooppppsicle!!!"

"i'm leaving without you!" i shout out my window and start the car. through the garage window i can see her in the backyard near her playground. i back out slowly. the car is totally out of the garage. she comes around the corner of the garage and watches from a distance as the garage door goes down. tears are running down her face. "let's go. get in the car," i say through my open window. she just stares at me. i back down the driveway almost to the street. she comes to the driveway's center and stares at me, sobbing. i stop the car, get out, go pick her up and put her in the car, strapping her into her carseat.


"that's it! i'm sick of these stupid freaking popsicles! i am sick and tired of all this morning drama! cut it out! it isn't funny! it isn't cute! it's obnoxious. you're being an obnoxious brat right this very second. i've got your damn popsicle in my pocket and right now i feel like throwing it out the freaking window! just eat your stupid pink wheat but you are never ever ever going to have a popsicle for breakfast again as long as you live with us. never. never ever. you grow up and move out, live by yourself, you can have all the freaking popsicles you want! you can eat dirt and meat and bugs for all i care. now eat you freaking pink wheat so you can have this stupid freaking popsicle. seriously."

oddly enough, she stops crying just like that. it all dries up. not in some "i'm so scared i'll stifle my emotions," way but in a "well, good to see you have some human feelings about the situation, daddy" way. she eats all the pink wheat as we drive to school, then she waves the empty ziploc bag in the air. "i'mmmm finished." it's there, a real taunting tone to her voice.

feeling defeated, i hand back her popsicle.

"better eat this fast. what you haven't finished by the time we get to school you don't get to eat."
she gobbles it up, then hands me the sticky stick and wrapper. i put them between the two front seats.

the moment she's finished, though:

"my socks are wet!" tears in a storm. her shoe is pulled off, her sock too. "why did you let this happen!? my soooooooooocckkkkksssss are wet! it's uncomfortable!"

"i didn't do it. you wandered off into the wet grass. what am i supposed to about that?"

"mmmmmyyyyyyyy sooooooocccckkkkkkssssss aaaaaaaaarrrrrreeee weeeeeeetttt!!!!"


silence from the backseat save for sniffles.

in the school parking lot, i take her sock and rub it between my palms briskly, rub it inside and out against the car seat trying to dry it as much as possible. when i put it on this time, there's no complaining about it being wet or it hurting. she sobs and sobs, "i just want to go home, let's go home, i just want to go home, let's go home."

we get out of the car. i carry her into the building as she clutches me tightly, wrapping her whole body around me, crying into my neck. we detour into the library, nice and dark and quiet. i set her down on a chair, use her pablo to wipe away her tears.

"okay, okay, settle down, that's right. deep breaths. settle down. you have to settle down if you want to go into your classroom and play." classes don't start for about an hour, so she has a good chunk of morning playtime. "you have to settle down if you want to go and play, okay." she nods. i wipe away all her tears. "are you ready?" she nods.

we leave the library. "it's a race," i say and start hustling toward the door of her classroom, "it's a race and i'm gonna win!"

she runs after me, gets ahead of me, makes it to the door first.

we enter the classroom, say good morning to the teacher, put away her penguin. hang up her jacket. she hugs me very very tightly. i kiss her cheeks and hug her back.

"go have fun, sweetie. i love you so much. sorry i was so grumpy this morning." she starts to tear up again. "look, there's your friends! hurry up, they're getting away."

she runs off.

i drive twenty minutes to the train station, wait on the platform another ten minutes, ride into the city for thirty minutes, get all the way to work before i realize i have a globbed popsicle stick stuck to my butt.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Fashion Plate

I sent a photo like this out a few years ago, showing The Littlest Critic's unerring sense of fashion. In that photo, she had on an orange construction worker's hat, a ladybug costume, white ankle socks, one gray glove, a pink ribbon bow tie, and she carried some garden implements. Then she was just a bit more than one.

Nowadays, she has very definite opinions on what looks good and what she should wear to school. Opinions like yours and mine? They mean nothing! This child is stylin' and she knows it. Often the question, after she puts together one of these fine ensembles is, "Does this look beautiful?"

The answer is, of course, yes, though sometimes I opt for, "That's pretty amazing!"

I can only wonder what others think of these avant garde creations at her school or when I'm out in public. My suspicion is that women shake their heads and say to themselves, "Oh, that poor child. Look at how her daddy dressed her." As though I didn't have more sense.

Sometimes, when I drop her off at school, I'm tempted to mention to the teacher as I leave, "TLC picked out that outfit herself. She's very proud of it." Then I figure, what the heck, why bother?

Without further ado, I present, the stripiest kid in town:

...and, yes, I let her go to school like this.

Friday, April 11, 2008


This post by Hunter over at Kos is absolutely genius.

A couple snippets:

Of all the habits of two legged little monsters that my daughter has recently adopted, by far the most prevalent and annoying is the phrase "Do what I want, or I won't be your friend anymore." I have no idea which of the cloven hoofed little brats from Satan's personal jungle gym first introduced her to this omnipresent schoolyard concept, but my daughter has now made it fully her own, along with clever variations like "do what I want, or I won't love you anymore," or "do what I want, or I'm not going to listen to you anymore," or the minimalist, unsubtle version, "do what I want, or I hate you." My daughter considers this to be a master stroke of manipulation, the ultimate takedown when faced with any adversary who demands that she brush her teeth or stop tying things to the dog. Of course, all it actually does is enrage the recipient of the threat, convincing them that all promised decades of bitter, loveless relationship with their child will be just fine, thank you very much, if You Will Only Brush Your God Damned Teeth This Instant.


The second behavioral abomination that my child has decided to make her own is the I Know Better Than You phase. My daughter is absolutely convinced -- without question -- that she is the expert on any subject, any device, any process, and any phenomenon of the physical world that she declares herself to be the expert of. I do not even know when she learned the word "expert," but now she is one, and her subject of expertise changes according to the winds and whatever anyone else is doing at the time.

My daughter has declared herself an expert driver: she has never once driven, and cannot reach the pedals, but she is insistent that she knows more than I do on the subject. She can play the piano better than I can; can play video games better than I can; can chainsaw tree branches better than I can; can program computers better than I can; can choose quality merchandise at moderate prices better than I can, and so on. She has achieved expert status on how banks work ("they give people money"), how tall trees can get ("until they poke the sky"), how big the moon is ("bigger than the whole city!"), and the full and complete definitions of any word you can show her, read to her, or make up on the spot. She can fix the plumbing under the sink using nothing more than my biggest pipe wrench, used as a hammer (crap -- excuse me one moment...)

and how all of this relates to our current Administration and their enabling, dimwitted punditry class of courtiers.

It really is a piece of work and has any number of great things to recommend it, so as the kids all say, Read The Whole Thing.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Storytelling, or
Who's Telling this Tale?

For the last month or so, The Littlest Critic has been enthralled by the stories I've been telling at bath time.

Over the months shortly after the birth of our daughter, The Wife and I were gifted three purple hippos with yellow inner tubes for the bath. With temperature sensitive letters spelling out "HOT" on their bottoms, these toys informed new parents, idiots that we are, when we ran too hot a bath for our newborns.

The stories featuring these hippos are alternately about three hippo sisters, Cloris, Delores, and Doris or three hippo brothers Boris, Morris, and Norris. The sisters had real, classically constructed stories with an introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution. The brothers stories were just madcap nonsense about getting cookies off high shelves or playing catch.

In the beginning, there were only the three sisters and their friend, The Green Bear, a bath toy we found last summer trapped in the filter of the public pool that we could not (COULD NOT) leave behind. Other bath toys, such as the Jewel Duck, the Corn Duck, or The Boy and The Girl, could join in the adventures, but it was pretty much a hippo and bear only show.

After a while, I got a little case of writer's block (although what we'd call it in this instance, I don't know) and I began toying with the notion of using classical sources from antiquity when I was trapped. At first, it was hard digging through source material to find the right Greek myths that I could pilfer (like Shakespeare, he said, preeningly), then I stumbled upon the Thousand and One Nights scenario.

This has worked like gangbusters. The three hippo sisters don't want to go to bed. Their daddy, The Green Bear, makes them go through all the required cleaning rituals, then tucks them into bed. The wily sisters, wanting to stay awake, offer to tell their father stories. He, being a bear who enjoys a tale more than most, always acquiesces and lets the three sisters tell one story each.

The first sister usually tells a Three Hippo Brothers story that is some kind of nonsense (though I've lately slipped in some small math problems for the hippos to solve in order to get the cookies or the candy they want). The second sister tells a classic tale. (The night I told a variation on Pygmalion where a lonely hippo makes a statue of a duck to be a friend, a statue that comes to life, the story proved such a hit that I was required to tell it three times in various ways.) The third sister usually tells a very repetitive story about a bee that visits a playground and everything he flies over and around. This last story typically puts The Green Bear Daddy to sleep and the Three Hippo Sisters celebrate their victory by staying up and playing all night.

Ahem. That, my friends, has been the routine for a while now.

Until. Until TLC decided she wanted to take over the storytelling duties. Stepping back from this, having had time to mull it over, I am usually quite pleased that she's shown such an interest in being a storyteller like me.

But, but, but, at the time she does it, I'm really and actually pretty frustrated. Hey! I think, I'm the one telling the story here. I've actually taken time out to make a good parallel, hippo-centric version of the Judgment of Paris. This is real work that I'm putting into these bath time adventures. Now she's going to sidetrack the whole business for her nonsense?

I always let her tell her stories though. They're usually pretty funny. High on nonsense, goofy as all get out, they're like some dadaist prank of a children's book or a trip through the mind of a five year old Dali (incidentally, the last time we visited the Cleveland Museum of Art, this was TLC's favorite picture; while it's not particularly amusing, she thought it a stitch).

All of this, mind you, is just one big preface so I can present to you, unedited, as transcribed by me seconds after its completion, one of the bath time stories, as told by The Littlest Critic. Enjoy.

They all played in the park and they played ping poe pong pango peego. And they hit the baseball right into their mouths, and it was ice cream. It was an ice cream baseball.

And they hit it with a bat! Another one! Another one! Another one! Another ice cream baseball.

And it landed right in the mouth of a lion! And the people saw the teeter totter would be a good way to shoot him up to the sky. And the lion ROARED and he jumped.

The End.

Sophocles better watch out. There's some pretty stiff competition on the way. Oh yeah.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


"It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both."

The Wife has been reading non-picture books to The Littlest Critic for about a month now. About a year ago, I discovered she'd sit still for a chapter of Winnie-the Pooh and on some days for two, but I never tried a sustained narrative. Generally speaking, TLC's preference is for brightly colored pages of wacky adventures like Scaredy Squirrel or Pinkalicious, but she is getting bigger and she is listening very well.

At any rate, last night was the closing chapter of Charlotte's Web. The Wife finished the book, reading slowly and surely the last two sentences. She shut the book, turned to TLC and said, "You know who is a true friend and a good writer?"

TLC asked, "Who?"

The Wife: Daddy.
TLC: Who?
The Wife: Daddy.
TLC: Who?
The Wife: Daddy.
TLC: Who?

Note: this was not done as some kind of game or bit of silliness. The Wife is a teacher. That is something easy to get your head around when you're a kid, especially if you go to school. But a writer? How do you explain that in a way that makes any sense to a five year old and have them truly understand it?

Ah well. When I was her age, I wanted to be a fire fighter.