Growing up is never easy. Just ask Little Lady, almost three-and-a-half, how hard it is. She’ll tell you. “It’s really, really hard. Half way through the day, my parents are a complete wreck.”
She’s right. Sometimes the tension in here gets so thick you could almost slice it with a turbo-jet, 9,000 horsepower chainsaw. Almost.
Like the other day when we were leading Little Lady upstairs to go to bed. She decided that the stairs were the perfect place to spring a surprise “balance” exam. So she pushed me to see if I would fall down the stairs, and maybe even knock my wife down along the way.
“Hey! Don’t push me down the stairs.”
Obviously, I was missing the point of the surprise exam. She pushed again.
“Don’t do that!” I almost shouted.
After two attempts, you would think I would be given an A+, but she pushed again.
I got fierce. “What part of ‘Don’t push me down the stairs!’ don’t you understand?”
“The ‘don’t’ part,” my wife interjected. “She understands the rest all too well.”
Everybody has a different parenting style, and I am no-one to belittle others who raise their children differently. But I believe the most effective parenting style is the don’t-cry-over-spilt-milk approach.
“Little Lady, where is your sippy cup?”
“I don’t know.”
“Is it in the living room?”
“I don’t know.”
“Is it here? No. What about here? No. Is it…ah, here it is and it’s empty. Good girl, you drank it all.”
“No, I just put it there.”
“Where’s the milk?”
“Maybe in the carpet.”
In addition to the assorted juices, milk and water that our voracious green carpet has sneaked from Little Lady’s sippy cup, there is the matter Little Sister’s milk bottle.
Did you know that if you tip it just right and apply optimum pressure, you can empty an entire baby bottle into a carpet? At one year old (almost), Little Sister has already mastered the technique. Next week I’ll be filling in the early enrollment forms for engineering school.
Somewhere out there is a cow whose sole purpose in life is to feed our living room carpet. But what happens to all that milk. By all rights, every step on the carpet should emit a very loud “squish” sound.
Growing up should, in theory, bring some relief to us parents. Of course, it is the being grown up that brings relief, and then we will look fondly back on these growing pains.
But until parental senility takes root, there are some hopeful signs.
Little Lady has finally been toilet trained, which is mostly good. However, there are some unpredicted side effects. For instance, we used to be able to sleep through the night. But now we get called to duty in the wee hours of the morning.
“What’s the matter, Little Lady?”
“I wet my undies.”
Fortunately, I can always go back to bed, and after twenty minutes, just as I am fading back into sleep…
“What is it now?”
“You’re not my mommy.”
“Your mommy is asleep, lucky for her. What do you need?”
“I need to go pee.”
Fortunately, I can always go back to my pillow, and after another twenty minutes, just as I am fading back into sleep…
“What is it this time?”
“You’re not my mommy.”
“Your mommy is still asleep. Let’s not wake her. What do you need now?”
“I need to poop.”
Fortunately, I can always crawl back under the covers, and after another twenty minutes, just as I am finally fading back into sleep…
“Little Lady, it’s still dark.”
“No. Come here. Look out the window. It’s not night any more. See? The sky is lighting. It’s a beautiful, sunny day. What are we going to do today, Papa?”
As I bring Little Lady downstairs to revel in the joy of a new day on our green and milk colored carpet, I wonder why we bothered toilet training her. As I lift the garbage bags to carry them to the street, 120 yards away, I have my answer. Since Little Lady has abandoned those disposable diapers, we have been consuming much less garbage.
Now, if somebody would kindly push me down the stairs so I can get some sleep…
David Leonhardt is a humor columnist
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