Category Archives: Conversations with my daughter
Same Thing, Right?
In the grocery store tonight with my 7-year-old girl, as we breeze past the checkout lanes toward the bananas in the produce section:
The Goddess: Daddy, what’s a tampon?
Me: Well, it’s…you know when Mommy has her “lady time of month” and…
The Goddess: Oh, no! No no no no no no no…
(I pause, wondering why she’d be bothered by this discussion as often as topics of menstruation and PMS come up in the household)
The Goddess: …No, I mean…um…DADDY WHAT’S THAT THING YOU TALK ABOUT SOMETIMES AND YOU’VE TOLD ME THEY MAKE UP STORIES?!
Me (not missing a beat): Tabloids?
The Goddess: Yes! Daddy, how do they get the photos for those?
I answer her question and explain paparazzi and such but, really, all my mind can think of is: Tabloid. Tampon. Is there really much difference? They both soak up a lot of unpleasant material and get tossed away quickly.
Seeing the Silver Lining in a Squirrel Invasion
So, for the past couple days, we’ve been hearing scrabbling sounds in the wall near our washer and dryer in the kitchen of our big, old (more than a century) house. So, the wife and I have been concerned that mice, a rat, a chipmunk or a squirrel had somehow gotten up in there from the basement and was going to chew through our wires and cause our house to burn down at any moment.
We finally got someone to come out today, after we’d already determined it was in an old sealed chimney (sealed from the bottom, at least) and not in our wall. Dude looked down there, and reported back to us we had a mama squirrel and a litter of babies sucking at the teats.
Good news? They can’t get into the house. Bad news? We need to wait until the babies are grown enough to climb up and be caught in traps, so we get to hear the scrabbling noises for a couple more weeks.
So, I tell our little goddess what’s going on.
“There are squirrels in our chimney?” she asked as I finished telling her why someone had come over and why me and her mom had been concerned the past couple days.
“Yeah, honey. A mommy and her babies. But we can’t get rid of them for a couple weeks until they’re more grown, or they’ll die down there and it will stink inside the house.”
“So, they’re going to be here for a while?” she asks, and I begin to think maybe she’s getting nervous.
“Yeah, sweetie, but they can’t get in the house. They’re surrounded by brick and can’t get through that.”
Her eyes widen, and I’m concerned maybe I shouldn’t have said anything at all.
“Ohhhhhhhhhh,” she says, in a low, sing-song voice. “Baby squirrels! We have a squirrel family.”
Then I realize she’s excited by the idea of a rodent family nesting in our house.
In my head: They ain’t stayin’ my sweetheart. Oh, no. They aren’t pets. So don’t get attached.
But I can see it now. My daughter hovering near the kitchen, waiting for the scritchy-scratchy of little pest feet.
Six Degrees of…Utter Madness !!!!!
Remember the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game? You know, how many degrees of separation exist between any film celebrity you can name and Kevin Bacon (or some other actor via Kevin Bacon), who once jokingly claimed to have worked with everyone in Hollywood? Rarely could you get more than six people distant, and it probably works with any actor or other folks involved in films, I’d guess. For example:
Michelle Pfeiffer to Julia Ormond (via Kevin Bacon)
1. Pfeiffer to Jack Nicholson in “The Witches of Eastwick”
2. Nicholson to Kevin Bacon in “A Few Good Men”
3. Bacon to Brad Pitt in “Sleepers”
4. Pitt to Julia Ormond in “Legends of the Fall”
Linked in four degrees
If you have ever had a child with any level of serious curiosity about life and the kind of focus normally only seen in butterflies with ADHD (in other words, 90+% of kids) or spent plenty of time around a much younger relative, you will know that every topic has only a few degrees of separation from any other topic, no matter how illogical it might seem to leap from one to the other, and the speed with which the topic changes can be dizzying.
For example, Pisces to flying cars via my daughter.
In the car last week, my daughter asked about Pisces.
This led to a discussion of the Zodiac and astrology…
…which led to a discussion of adoption and child abandonment (“What if a child is adopted, Daddy? They wouldn’t know the birthday to know what animal sign the baby was”)
…which led to me barely avoiding the still-too-early in my opinion “birds-and-bees” discussion, dodged by me simply clarifying that a man and a woman are needed for a baby to be made, but only the mommy needs to be present for birth (“Daddy, how could a girl have a baby if the boy wasn’t there”)
…which led to discussion of early human-like hominids/proto-people/cavemen, with dashes of evolution tossed in plus speculation on how fire was “discovered.” (“Daddy, the whole deal with cavemen was that they spent their time looking for fire or trying to make it, right?”)
…which led to a discussion of extinction followed immediately by advanced genomics and possible future cloning technology (“So scientists could have a person’s hair maybe and make a person from that? Like in ‘Spongebob?’ Or create a polar bear, which are going to be extinct soon, right?”)
…leading to a discussion of hovercraft and the fact we could make flying cars, but why it would be a really bad idea if most people were allowed to operate such vehicles (“Daddy, won’t it be cool when we can have flying cars and floating schools?”)
So that’s what…six degrees of separation (more or less) between an astrological sign and advanced transportation technology?
In any case, while I’m glad to have filled my daughter’s head with a combination of useful knowledge, trivia and a number of things that she will immediately forget about and ask me to explain again soon, this meant some 60 minutes or more (while driving mostly) of nearly non-stop talking on my part. By the time we got home from the errand we ran, I was literally lightheaded.
Moral of the story: If you can’t handle a police interrogation or intense job interview, do not have a child.
I’m Queen! Or Princess! Anyway, I’m the Boss of You
Me: Sweetie, did you wash your entire body?
Me: That just seemed like an awfully quick bath.
Daughter: (exaggerated indignation) Are you calling me a liar?!
Me: Let’s just say I’m questioning your attention to detail.
Daughter: (imperious tone) How DARE you!
Me: I dare to do a lot of things. I’m the daddy.
Daughter: You do not command ME!
Me: That’s a matter of opinion.
Daughter: I am a queen and I command YOU.
Me: You are not the queen around here.
Daughter: You’re right; I’m the princess, and I still rule over you.
(Laughter from wife in the other room)
Me: I think not.
Daughter: You have offended me and I sentence you to 10 years detention in my dungeon, where you will do very hard math problems and if you can’t solve them you will have to do drawings that are very, very nice or you will be in the dungeon for TWENTY YEARS!
Me: Good luck with that. You have no minions. All you have are stuffed animals, action figures and dolls and I can take them.
Exerting Her Goddesshood
In the car during errand-running activities last week, with the 7-year-old in tow…
Me: Honeybunch, we really should watch that Tinkerbell “Secret of the Wings” DVD soon. I have to bring it back to the library soon.
Daughter: OK, Daddy.
Me: Seriously. You kept going on and on about how much you wanted to see it, ever since they started having commercials for its release months and months ago. I’ve already reached the renewal limit on this; it has to go back soon. You need to lay off watching “Wizards of Waverly Place” and whatever else on Netflix. You can watch that stuff on the iPad any time.
Daughter: Any time?
Me: Any time it’s a day you have screen time and you have access to it. Not like Mommy or I really use it much.
Daughter: So I can watch Netflix on the iPad tonight, then.
Daughter: You saaaaaiiiid “any time.”
Me: Any time on a day you’re allowed to watch TV. That’s the weekend, starting when you get home on Friday.
Daughter: (Activates semi-smarmy/semi-sweet know-it-all voice) No, you said “any time”…
Me: I think you know what I meant.
Daughter: (Activates semi-demonic/semi-imperious voice) You *HAVE* to let me watch the iPad tonight now.
Me: No I don’t.
Daughter: (Activates grandiose voice) You *MUST* obey the mighty [insert a goddess name here; it might even be my girl’s actual name] !!!!!!! Let me use the iPad *RIGHT* when we get home!
Me: That won’t be happening.
Daughter: (Add booming undertones to grandiose voice) You must obey the mighty goddess’ power! I demand that you obey!
Me: Nah. Not gonna work. You have to wait.
Daughter: (Switches suddenly to sweet/wheedling voice; no doubt her eyelids fluttering furiously, even though I can’t see her) Please, Daddy?
Me: Sorry, kiddo. Nope.
Daughter: (Adds more syrup to voice) I’ll do everything you say if you do…
Me: You always tell me that; it never turns out to be true for longer than about 15 minutes.
Daughter: I willlllllllll. I promise. Pleeeeeeaaaaaase?
Me: You’ll have to wait until Friday.
Daughter: (Activates sing-song tattletale voice) I’ll tell Mommy you’ve been mean. I’ll tell her you’re a BAD DADDY.
Me: She already knows that, Sweetie.
Oh, the Mouth On That Girl!
Thought I’d share samples of a few major kinds of maddening conversations I have with my darling daughter. By way of full disclosure, these are pulled (and slightly modified) from a post at my Holy Sh!+ from Deacon Blue blog, back when the wee goddess was about 6 years old. Honestly, the past year hasn’t seen these change much in tone or frequency.
The I Can’t Effectively Manage Time Conversation
Not that I expect my daughter to be an effective time-manager, but this kind of conversation is one she has been routinely coached against pursuing, yet she refuses to heed me. I estimate I have lost an amount of productive time due to these kinds of talks that is roughly equal to three-quarters of my daughter’s current age. Don’t bother telling me that’s mathematically and, practically speaking, impossible. Let’s just call it the new, new math, OK?
Me: “Yes, Honeybunch?”
Daughter: “Can I ask you a question?”
Daughter: (long pause)
Me: “Ask the question, Sweetie. Please.”
Daughter: “Well, I was thinking…you see…[insert out of context transitional clause here]…what I was thinking was…you know how [insert situation with possibly relevant role in conversation but probably not]…So what I wanted to know was…[insert actual question here].”
Me: “Whoa. You’ve completely lost me. Try that again.”
Daughter: (raises voice to a near shout) “WHAT I’M ASKING IS…DO…YOU…KNOW…[insert actual question here, more clearly and succinctly stated than before, but presented in loud one-word increments separated by one full second between each word, thus causing me to quickly lose comprehension.]”
Me: “I could hear you before. Could you try just speaking normal speed and normal volume and just ask the question without giving me all the backstory?”
Daughter: [insert totally intelligible and articulate question here]
Me: [insert appropriate answer here.]
Daughter: “Thanks, Daddy.”
Me: “You’re welcome, Honey. You know, we could save a lot of time if you at least didn’t keep saying ‘Daddy’ and then waiting for me to respond and then saying you have a question and waiting for me to respond to that. You could just come right out and ask the question right off the bat. It would be way more efficient.”
Daughter: “OK, Daddy.”
Daughter: (somewhere between one and ten minutes later) “Daddy?”
Me: “Yes, Honey?”
Daughter: “I have a question…”
P.S. The above kind of conversation most often occurs, and with more intensity, when I am driving and trying to concentrate on us not dying in an impact with one of the many clueless local drivers or, worse yet, the even more clueless out-of-town tourists.
The Please Drop the Subject Already Conversation
This conversation is about as close to verbatim as I can manage from an actual experience shortly before my girl turned six. Refusing to drop a topic that is annoying to me is a common feature of life with her, and many of them follow the same pattern as the one below.
Daughter: “Daddy, did you and Mommy say you liked that restaurant we just passed?”
Me: “No. In fact, about every second or third time we pass it and you ask that question, we’ve told you we couldn’t stand the place.”
Daughter: “Oh, I thought you liked it.”
Me: “You always say that. But we’ve never said one good thing about it, and you ask about that restaurant more and more often when we drive down this road. We don’t like it. At all. Not one bit.”
Daughter: “What don’t you like about it?”
Me: “The food is garbage and the service stinks and it’s not even all that inexpensive so it’s not remotely worth visiting.”
Daughter: “So you and Mommy don’t like eating there?”
Me: “No. I’m sure someone must like it, because they’re still in business after all these years, but we’re probably never going to go there again. So, there’s no reason to talk about it.”
Daughter: “What if someone forced you to go eat there?”
Daughter: “What if someone made you guys go eat there?”
Me: “Why would someone do that?”
Daughter: “Because…I don’t know. They need to pass a test? Or they’re really mean?”
Me: “Well, the chances of someone doing that…look, why do you always imagine these crazy scenarios? I mean, I like imagination and all, but why every time I give you a simple answer you have to counter it with some really off-the-wall scenario that doesn’t even make sense or just tell me the opposite of what I said is true even though it’s clear that I know what I’m talking about?”
Daughter: “I just do.”
Me: “Well, even if someone did try to force me to eat there, what makes you think I’d let them? Do you think I do things every time someone tries to force me?”
Me: “OK. Good. Look, we don’t like the food there, we’re probably never going to eat there again, and no one’s going to force us to. End of story. Cool?”
Daughter: “OK, Daddy.” (a few seconds pass) “Daddy, do you think the cooks there are bad cooks?”
Me: “No. They might be good cooks. But they have to cook the way the restaurant owners say to cook. And the owners probably buy crappy ingredients and don’t have good recipes and make the cooks rush to get stuff out instead of doing it right. I mean, if I buy a frozen meal from Trader Joe’s and cook it according to the directions and it ends up sucking, that’s not the fault of me. I know how to follow the directions and I know how to cook well from scratch. It was the meal in the box that stunk. The restaurant could have people who know how to cook when they’re allowed to use good stuff. But I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t care. I want to stop talking about that restaurant now. In fact, I don’t ever want to talk about it again.”
Daughter: “OK, Daddy.”
Daughter: (one minute later). “Daddy, what do you think I would think of the food at that restaurant?”
Me: [insert possibly inappropriate frustration-induced language followed by a fervent plea to just drop the subject already.]
The Zero Information Conversation
In this kind of conversation, absolutely no useful information whatsoever is conveyed to me, and I cannot for the life of me imagine how my daughter even imagined for a moment I would have any need to hear about the non-topic of conversation. In fact, some of these conversations impart so little information that I think it’s a “negative information” conversation and that information is being sucked out of my brain instead of inserted into it, increasing my chances of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The conversation below occurred as I was trying to wash her hair before bedtime.
Daughter: “So, you said that someone you trust said ‘Zookeeper’ was a bad movie?”
Me: “Uh, yeah. I mean, I saw some reviews and some people I know online have said it was a totally worthless movie.”
Daughter: “Oh. You know someone I trust said there was some new superhero movie out and that no one should waste their money on it. Captain American something.”
Me: “There’s a Captain America movie that just came out. A lot of people say they don’t like it and a lot of people say they do like it. So it’s not a movie like ‘Zookeeper’ where most folks say it stinks.”
Daughter: “So some people like it and some people don’t. Well, there was a real person on TV who said we shouldn’t waste our money on it.”
Me: “TV? The ‘person you trust’ is a movie reviewer or something on the television? (long pause) Wait, wait…where would you have seen a movie review on TV? None of the channels you watch have movie reviews.”
Daughter: “I don’t know. I just did.”
Me: “When? And what channel were you on?”
Daughter: “At the beginning of July.”
Me: “Honey, the beginning of July was like three weeks ago, and the movie wasn’t even out yet at that time. So that couldn’t be true. Are you just making this up?”
Me: “So when did this happen and what were you watching on TV?”
Daughter: “The middle of July.”
Me: “Honey, the middle of July was a week or so ago, and the movie still wasn’t out then, so no one could have known whether it was a good movie or a bad one. The month is almost over. So could you please tell me once and for all when this happened and where you saw it and what it was about?”
Daughter: “I don’t know.”
Me: “So, you’re telling me that at some point in time you can’t remember when, you were watching some channel you never watch but can’t remember what it is now, where you saw someone say ‘don’t waste your money’ seeing a movie that you don’t know what it was. You basically started a conversation based on absolutely no information I could possibly make use of or make sense of. Are you trying to drive me insane?”
I Killed the Tooth Fairy
A repost here at the new blog from my original (and still slowly chugging along) blog Holy Sh!+ from Deacon Blue.
Originally posted in August 2012:
I sit here now, glittery sparkling blood on my hands as I type. I can’t wash it off, any more than Lady Macbeth’s incessant hand washing could remove the memory of what horrors she had unleashed and sins she had committed. *Sigh* Where do I begin? I suppose with a simple fact. A simple statement.
This afternoon, I killed the Tooth Fairy.
Granted, I wasn’t trying to. I wanted to save her. I wanted to preserve her. But her death is now laid at my feet.
Such a sudden thing it was, too. I took my darling daughter, who just a couple weeks ago turned 7, to the children’s museum in Portland, Maine, so that our favorite grown woman (her mother, my wife) could have brunch with some people she had wanted to meet for a while. We had barely finished paying for admission and then walking to the first room in the museum when Little Girl Blue said, calmly and without preamble, “Daddy, is the Tooth Fairy real, or do you and Mommy put the money under my pillow? Please be totally honest.”
In that moment, I realized I had been asked a question only slightly less distressing to parents than “What is sex?” or “Can I get a belly button piercing?” I did not pause, but simply led her to a small bench somewhat away from the other kids, sat down with her, and asked, “Do you really want to know?”
“You’re sure you want to ask this question, even though the answer may change things in your life?”
“Yes. Please be honest.”
Twice now she had stressed honesty, and so there was no other path. Before, when a Kindergartner in her first year of school had told her the Tooth Fairy wasn’t real, Mrs. Blue simply asked, “What do you believe? What do you want to think? That’s all that matters.” My wife’s words (and clever ploy) were enough then, and they were true words, and Little Girl Blue continued to believe. Now, though, she was pressing me to be honest. I’m not sure why I drew this short straw, but I don’t think it would have been any different had my wife been the one with her at that moment; Little Girl Blue knows we’ll speak truth when asked, and most other times as well.
“Well, Honey, before I answer your question, let me ask you this: If it turns out Mommy and Daddy are the ones giving you the money, and I confirm that, do you think that there will still be money under your pillow in the future?” She was still young enough not to realize that I had essentially admitted the Tooth Fairy wasn’t real, but I was banking on that childish naivete so that she could still have an out if she wanted it.
She muddled over that for a few moments, then said, “Yes! …um, maybe not. I guess no. But I want to know.”
“I’m going to ask you one more time: Are you sure?” I queried, quietly but intently. “Sometimes, getting an honest answer to things changes things in ways you might not like. Do you still want me to answer?”
“Yes. I do.”
I put my arm around her and leaned in close, and said in almost a whisper, “No, Honey. The Tooth Fairy isn’t real. That’s Mommy and Daddy.”
“OK, Daddy,” she said after a short pause to let that sink in. “Thanks for telling me.”
“You’re welcome,” I said, and then played my last card to let magic be in her world a bit longer. “Frankly, I don’t know if any fairies are assigned any tooth-related duties. And they sure wouldn’t be carrying human money around, now would they?”
“No, they wouldn’t. I still believe in fairies, Daddy. Just not the Tooth Fairy.”
“That’s good, Honey. There are all kinds of strange and wonderful things in the world, even if they haven’t been proven they exist and even if we’ve never seen them.” Then I lowered my voice even more, and looked at the other kids in the room in a way that she couldn’t help but notice. “Don’t tell other kids, honey. Kids have told you the Tooth Fairy isn’t real, when you would have figured it out yourself someday. And you found out earlier than you probably needed to. But don’t ruin it for another kid. Let them ask the question when they’re ready to ask their parents. Some parents and kids don’t think about that; some purposely want to end that belief for other people because they think it’s stupid. So please don’t do it to anyone.”
“I won’t, Daddy.”
I thought I was done until later in our children’s museum visit, when we were sitting down to a snack and she asked, “Are there any other magical things in my life that you and Mommy have told me about that aren’t real?”
Shit. So soon? The dominoes all ready to fall, all at once, on the same day?
“Do you have a specific question?”
“Are any other magical things in my life that aren’t real?”
“No, do you have a question about some specific thing?”
“I can’t think of one right now. But are there any other things?”
I paused only a moment, torn about what I should do, and then said, “I’m not going to answer that question. It’s too broad. Honey, we’ve had to tell you about horrible things sometimes, like people who hurt kids and people who kill people for no good reason. We’ve had to let you know about some bad things in life, and I think you should have as much magic as you can in life. For as long as you can. If you have a question about a specific thing, you can ask Mommy or me about it, and we’ll be truthful. But I won’t answer the question you just asked. But you can ask the questions about each thing as you want to. When you want to.”
“OK, Daddy. Thank you for being honest.”
And so, Santa Claus, the Birthday Fairy (Akimahs), the Leprechaun and the Easter Bunny have a reprieve. Not sure how long, but for a little while, at least.
It may seem weird, but I do feel guilty about the Tooth Fairy’s demise. My honesty killed her, and no matter how much that honesty was needed then, I still feel bad. That bit of magic is fun for the parents and the kids. The loss of that magic is a sign of my daughter’s maturity, and that’s a good thing; it warms my heart. But at the same time, it’s bittersweet. It makes me mourn for her childhood already, knowing that it is fast receding the closer she gets to tween and teen years.
But she still believes in fairies; that’s good. Mrs. Blue does, too, more or less. And we all believe in angels, because we’ve known at times when they’ve moved in our lives. So, it’s not all bad.
But Santa, Leprechaun, Easter Bunny and Akimahs: Draw up your wills and settle any unfinished business now.
You may not be long for Little Girl Blue’s world.
(Oh, by the way, since I wrote the post above in August 2012, the Leprechaun died in similar manner by November or December. So far, all the other beings are alive, though some of them on life-support, I suspect…)
P.S. If you think my bloody chalk outline of the tooth fairy is slightly grim, that’s OK. At least I didn’t go as far as this…or that…or the other one over here.