Thursday, June 29, 2006

Simple substitution: Dad, it's your turn


"Don't be fooled," I tell myself as I look at Ittybit's face over the mountain of bath toys, gearing up for our daily struggle -- bath time.

Behind those angelic puffy cheeks, pursed lips and sparkling eyes is a confection of unnatural sweetness -- A look that says: 'I win' in no uncertain terms.

It is the thin-lipped countenance of determined celebration; the knowing gaze of understanding. The expression of delight in a job well done: she's successfully trained her parents (*cough-sputter mother) to acquiesce to her desire to keep her hair from EVER touching water.

Oh sure she will get into the tub. Constant work and ample bribery, not to mention the complicity of an ever-growing army of bath toys, has guaranteed her willingness to drench the bathroom with bathwater. But each and every dousing is not without a liberal dose of inveigling.

By the time I've coaxed her into the bath by assuring her that I'm not going to wash her hair "right now," her mental time clock starts counting down. She washes between her toes and scrubs behind her knees in between tea parties with toy sharks and high dives with her Little Pony, but when it comes time to wash the back of her neck she starts to squirm for the towel and an end to "baf-time."

As the days stretch into weeks her hair starts showing signs of life. Sticking up in all directions or plastered to her forehead, the changing sculpture that has become her hairdo is the emblem of my failure as a mom. Since I am routinely in charge of cleaning up the kid -- and since I am unable or unwilling to deal with a struggling, soapy, squealing, squidlet yelling "I'm ALL DONE here!" as she scrambles out of my grasp -- the "hairdon’t" will forever be my badge of shame.

This type of thing hardly ever happens with the dad part of the equation.
I'm not sure when the shift happened, exactly. There WAS a time when his efforts would have a limit and he'd hand over a writhing mass of baby flesh for me to calm. The he'd walk away shaking his head.

But now the man in our life has it all down. He wouldn't stand for the shenanigans I put up with. He is even able to take her to the grocery store and get through the aisles without much hassle. On a recent trip, the first in which the "I want this," phrase made it's inevitable appearance, he was miraculously able to talk her out of absconding with a pillow-shaped bag of Fruit Loops stuffed under her shirt.

In my shopping cart, there would have been a lot of "wannas" and "hafta haves," followed by a long and drawn out "PEAS!!!!!" The eventual tantrum would be icing on the cake (not to mention the icy stares it would lend from the stockers, who would have to return my selected items to the freezer before a literal meltdown occurred) as I leave my cart mid-shop.

Somehow, he was able to avert the most disastrous of all outbursts — the crying, limpbodied explosion of tears -- by simple substitution.

When he handed me a happy toddler, carting a box of plain-jane Rice Chex instead of the sugar-packed rings of color, I had to ask: "How did you manage that?"
"I said 'NO.'"


Trish said...

Ah yeah....this is a major hurdle I've fought with both of my children. I can relate.
And isn't it wonderful the way our little babies decide that I'm 'this way' with mom and 'that way' with dad, because they've learned our limits. Remarkable little creatures, they are.

Melissa said...

In our house we have to spell
b-a-t-h, not because our children dislike it so much, but because they would be heppy to soak in a tub the whole day long. Even though the two oldest now know how to spell, my husband and I still find ourselves spelling everything out.

PS - my kids definitely rule this roost!