Leta and I enter her room after eating breakfast, and because I haven’t slept in several days I forget the structure that we’ve implemented in order to get her to focus her attention on tasks that need to be completed before school. Recently we’ve been making a game out of getting dressed, timing her with our iPhones to see how fast she can switch out of her pajamas and into her clothes. I KNOW. The fun here NEVER ENDS. If I send you an invitation to our tooth-brushing game, you better RSVP the shit out of it.
So I’ve forgotten about the game and just say, “Leta, let’s get dressed.” And because she gets so distracted in the morning I might as well have said, “Je m’appelle le croissant.”
She dives head first into bed, throws the covers over her head and plays dead. I’ve got little-to-no-patience at this point (insert reference to major project launch, ill-timed vasectomy, and baby who wakes up at 4:30AM since the time change) but I summon what I can and say, “Leta, I need your cooperation this morning. Get up and get dressed or I’m going to take away your Nintendo DS.” You know, A THREAT. That’s Quality Parenting 101.
And hoo, I don’t know if it’s just my five-year-old girl who is going through this phase, but she uncovers her head, slowly limps her way out of bed and mumbles, “No you’re not because I’m going to hide it and you won’t find it and then I’ll play it without you knowing.” Like Dennis the Menace, except it’s Dennis the EVIL.
Now, If I had said this to my father when I was growing up, I wouldn’t be alive today.
So I get right up into her face and say NO YOU DID NOT. You are not allowed to talk to me this way DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. Not to instill fear, necessarily, except, yes. To instill fear. A little bit of fear is good. Oh dear god, the mail I’m going to get about this one.
And that’s when it starts, what we call her Academy Award Winning Performance, and she starts saying things like, “Now I’m sad and I’m going to be sad forever. For the rest of my life, MOM.”
And I’m like, dude, you can be sad. You can choose to feel this way, but we’re getting dressed. Here put on this shirt.
“But you hurt my feelings and I’m never going to be happy again. Ever. For the rest of my life.”
And I’m all, I know what it feels like to have my feelings hurt, that must be hard what you’re going through, but now we’re putting on these pants.
“But now I’m going to have a bad day because I’m sad, and then I’m going to have many bad days forever.”
And there is that irresistible, generation-spanning urge to go, you know what you need? A trip to Humble Camp, a place called AFRICA. But I nip it, I shut off that valve, and I say, “I’m sorry you’re feeling sad, that must be hard, now put on these socks.” SOCKS THAT KIDS IN AFRICA DON’T HAVE.
And I’m not even kidding, she looks up at me and says, “You made me sad, and I don’t know how to go on with the rest of my life.”
A half hour later as she’s gathering up her backpack and lunchbox and headed toward the car, her head hanging down in a pout, I pull Jon aside and give him a heads up that Leta is going to start her period ANY DAY NOW.