Meredith Carroll: Meredith Pro Tem
Ryan Summerlin February 22, 2011
Opinions are like armpits: Everybody seems to have two of them, and usually they both stink. While I recognize that fact in theory, it doesn’t mean in practice that I was prepared for my daughter to have a point of view, never mind many of them – often times several of them a day – and certainly not when she was just two-and-a-half-years old.
I mean, it wasn’t as if I thought she’d never have a mind of her own. When I was pregnant and dreamed about the kind of person she’d grow up to be, I imagined her personality would blossom and peak simultaneously when she delivered her inspiring and historic inaugural address to the country as the first female president. Or her true colors would premiere when she stood before a judge to plead for mercy (since you never know which way that fork in the road will take you, I was just trying to prepare myself to love her no matter what, just like Sarah Palin’s mom and dad must have had to do).
As a parent, you spend the first few years wondering what’s on your kid’s mind.
“Are you hungry?”
“Can you tell me where it hurts?”
“Who do you love more – Mommy or Daddy? And it’s just you and Mommy here, so go ahead and be honest.”
You scratch your head while trying to project what they’re thinking and feeling, impatiently waiting for the day when they can give voice to what’s actually happening in their heads. At that point you realize you were way better off when they threw spoons, shed tears (yours or theirs) and bit things in order to communicate.
On Sunday, Rick and I were getting ready to take our daughter to the pool. I grabbed a bathing suit out of her drawer.
“No like!” she declared as soon as she spied it. I took a closer look at it. It had flowers on the straps, a series of pink and green swirls on the body and a little tulle skirt around the waist. For a girl who enjoys a tutu over her fleece sweat-pants and butterfly barrettes in her hair along with a headband and double-braided ponytails, the choice of swim-wear hardly seemed like a fashion faux pas.
She pulled a swim shirt out of the same drawer.
“Dis one! Dis one!”
“No, sweetie,” I said. “I don’t know where the bottoms are to go with that. What about this one?” I asked, pulling out a blue polka dot one-piece.
Her eyes widened with horror as she kicked and thrashed her arms wildly in the air. “No! No like it!”
“Well, if you want to go swimming you have to pick one of these two suits. You can’t wear a top with no bottoms.”
She continued to howl. “Would you like a time out?” I asked.
The water works stopped abruptly. “OK,” she said calmly as I wondered for the umpteenth time how time outs are supposed to be effective when a kid is left in her room to play with her toys undisturbed.
Two minutes later, Battle Bathing Suit resumed until a fourth suit was found and mutually agreed upon. I sighed, remembering how much easier life was when I could dress her in a full-body pumpkin suit, pose her for pictures with other varieties of squash and send it around as an e-card, pushing aside any worries about her feelings until she stumbles across the evidence sometime after I’m dead.
It’s not just her clothes that she cares about now.
“No night-night,” she’ll say matter-of-factly when we tell her it’s time for bed. Then she’ll repeat it a second time, and then again, only the third time, she’ll shriek it, just in case you weren’t sure she means business.
“STAY DOWNSTAIRS!” she avers.
Sure, sometimes her having an opinion will work in everyone’s favor. Like if I know exactly what she wants for dinner – which is usually peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and jelly – I don’t have to guess and cook enough food to rival the amount of choices on a Cheesecake Factory menu, all of which will inevitably go to waste when she shakes her head and pushes each dish away as I set it down in front of her.
When I wake her up from her nap each afternoon (which might seem like a cardinal sin, until you realize that the longer she sleeps during the day, the longer she stays up to torture us at night), she realizes anew how much she had been enjoying her midday snooze.
“I go stay in bed,” she commands.
“I GO STAY IN BED,” she’ll say again louder, in case English isn’t your first language, or in case you missed the daggers in her sleepy, yet determined eyes the first time. The truth is, we’ve kind of realized that if she wants something, we’re all generally happier if she just gets it. We can deal with whatever consequences that results in when she’s a teenager, which is the time in her life when we figured we’d be battling with her and her opinions anyway.
Like, if she tells us she doesn’t want to ski, as she did on Saturday, we’d be wise to just stay home. At least Rick would have been, as he was the one who had to carry her down Panda Peak, her little skis digging into his front, side and/or back at just enough of a sharp angle to mimic a machete.
“No ski,” she whimpered, the snot freezing between her nose and upper lip. “No like it.”
Sometimes it’s hard to argue with a girl who knows what she wants. Although she seems determined to make it much easier.
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