Friday, February 08, 2008

The Flattery of Imitation

When people heard that Pat was going to be a father for the first time, there was a lot of speculation about what that child's first words would be. I think most people were betting on an innocent "shit" but a few others were less optimistic, assuming she'd go straight for f*ck.

The reality is, outside of the mysterious period of time when she referred to french fries as "f*ckies", I'm pretty sure she's never uttered any word from the uncensored pages of her father's personal lexicon. This is not to say that her father didn't have any influence on her early speech though. Her first word was "kitty"!

No, I am actually the one at whom the finger should be pointed for any premature "adult language" that has come from our daughter's mouth. Thankfully, my own word bank of expletives is much more benign, so you're only likely to hear an occasional "What the heck?" or frustrated "Dang It!" from our 3 year old's mouth. She is also quick to parrot a lot of the phrases we utter at her when frustrated with her behavior. Last night, when her doll repeatedly fell from the spot in the car where Ella was trying to perch her, she growled in frustration then bellowed "Now that's ENOUGH!" Even I could immediately recognize her words and the tone as my own.

Ella pretty much wants to do everything I do, just like me. She asks me several times a day if I'll teach her how to be a teacher because she wants to teach in the classroom right next to mine. She says she has dibs on teaching all of the "fun" stuff, you know, like cooking, riding a bike, and taking care of cats. With a curriculum like that, we're obviously destined for Montessori. She even tells me which items of my clothing she's going to borrow to wear to work when she's big enough. If she wasn't my daughter, I'd think she's my stalker. In, fact some days, the difference between daughter and stalker is blurry.

We've been having a lot of trouble getting her to stay asleep at night lately. This leads to a great amount of frustration, particularly because that child has slept, by herself, in the darkest room possible, without fail, since she was about 4 months old. On the few occasions that we've wanted her to sleep with us, prior to now, she simply couldn't do it. She'd usually end up curling up at the end of the bed in an effort to get away from us. But now, she's up every few hours requiring someone to put her back to bed, or, worse, someone to sleep with her. This, as you may guess, has terrible timing considering the health and related sleep issues her infant brother has had over the past few months. Yes, I'm sure its all related -- perhaps her jealousy manifesting itself in the dark hours of the night, but it certainly does not make it any easier to deal with.

We have been trying to creatively solve this problem with a myriad of techniques. We've been firm and persistent. We've been gentle and understanding. We've scolded. We've yelled. We've cuddled. We've begged. We've questioned and reasoned ourselves to death. Nothing has worked. While we're quite certain that this is something she'll just have to out grow, simply a phase (a cruel untimely phase), it does not keep us from persisting in our efforts. This week we've resorted to every parent's last stand...bribery. The deal being that if she can stay in bed enough nights consecutively, earning a sticker on a chart hanging next to her bed each time, she can earn the reward of her choosing. She seemed rather excited by the notion. After I hung her sticker chart by her bed, she immediately ran to her art box and set to work on some undisclosed creation. I, just happy that she was self entertained, thought nothing of it. But I was more than amused when I was summoned to my bedroom door a bit later in the afternoon to see her final product...

Maybe its not that she wants to be just like me as much as it is that she wants me to be just like her!

As for her selected reward, should she reach her objective, she informed that she thought only a pet snail would be a suitable reward for such a feat. Ah yes, a snail, of course! Specifically, she'd like the algae eating "snail" that she saw in the aquarium on the desk of a receptionist recently. This particular snail was no longer in the aquarium when we returned a few days later. The receptionist politely offered that the snail had to "move out" due to the fact that the fish in the aquarium did not get along with the snail. When Ella asked where the snail had moved to, the receptionist politely suggested somewhere far away as she privately gestured to me towards the train tracks, where I assume she had tossed the snail. If Ella can't have that snail, she says she'll take a lesser substitute from the pet store. But either way, she'll name him "Sniggly!" (Should you actually know anything about having a pet snail, please email me!)

As for my own sticker chart hanging on my bedroom door, this morning it was adorned with 3 stickers before I even got out of bed. One for each of the occupants of my bedroom. Ella asked what reward I would like when I fill up my chart for staying in my bed all night. Perhaps a fish, gerbil, or even a skunk!? It did not take long to decide...for staying in my bed all night I would simply like more time in my bed!

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