Sometimes it’s a bad idea to pretend you’re a cat

Posted by GT on October 10th, 2008 — Posted in Newspaper columns, Personal favorites

Originally published in August 2006, The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, Colo.

Every single day, the beautiful, intelligent, energetic little blond-haired, blue-eyed girl sharing our roof proves she’s an expert at making Daddy pound his forehead against the fireplace. She’s even better at this than her mommy, even though our girl only just turned 3.

One of the many things I’ve learned from my daughters is any parent who speaks only of the joys of children is probably leaving something out.

Our 3-year-old, the younger of the two, likes to pretend she’s a cat. Most of the time I just figure, “OK.” Sometimes I play along, rubbing her behind the ears while she purrs (first time we did this, her purring sounded more like blowing raspberries and I had to wipe the spray off my glasses).

But every now and then, she chooses to meow at really bad times. For example, when we’re getting ready to head out the door in a hurry (which we seem to do at least twice every day), it’s in bad form to insist upon meowing her answer when I ask, “Did you go potty?” It’s an even worse idea to drop on all fours and slowly head to the bathroom after I finally drag a “no” out of her.

A few days ago, I looked down at a red spot on my blue shirt – ketchup that dripped from my hamburger – then looked over at the mustard and mayo dotting my daughter’s clothes. And I didn’t much care, because I now accept stains happen.

If you’ve got a little kid at the table and you’re not willing to put up with blotches all over her skin and clothing, then you have to help her out from time to time. You have to reroll burritos before beans flop in her lap. You have to intercept her hand with a napkin before she wipes it on her dress. You have to remind her and remind her and remind her to eat over her plate. You have to create a dam for spilled milk before it flows over the table and onto her.

While doing all this, you’ll spill some of your own food on yourself. If you manage not to, then the stuff on her will get on you when you pick her up later. There’s no getting around it.

Bedtime is the worst. Being a lot like me, our daughter’s sleep requirements are like mine were at her age … which means she doesn’t need much. She gets so interested in other things that she usually takes about a minute short of forever to drop off every night.

My wife and I will sit in the living room, passing time while we wait for our girl to finish singing, chatting with her dolls, reciting the poem her big sister made up (“I have a little pony, Her name is Little Grey, I bought her at the barbershop, And now I go away”) or begging us to refill her water cup.

Every night, I think I’ll be able to work on a model kit or start the next great American novel after our child gets to sleep, and every night I run out of energy before she does.
Yeah, this stuff gets old.

But man, what’s harder to describe are the things that make the frustrations so worth it. It’s stuff that’s good – great, even – but a lot of people probably wouldn’t get it.

Like over the weekend. We’re working on teaching our girl how to behave at church and she struggles. The reason for the struggle is obvious: Church is boring, she doesn’t want to sit still. I have the same problem.

But one moment – one quiet moment – we looked at each other during the service and her eyebrows went up.

“I’m being good,” she whispered. Sounded like a statement, but it was a question.

I nodded, smiled, whispered, “Yes you are, sweetheart.”

That was all she needed to hear. Her grin was so big it lifted her shoulders to her ears, then she rewarded me with a kiss on the cheek.

So worth it.

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