Single Dad = No Sleep (Again)

Reason #2 Why I Miss My Wife: we split the nighttime disturbances. If Ella or Jon wakes up, we alternate who has to schlep in and save the day. No Rachel = Jason on duty all night long.

So far tonight, I’ve had to go into Jon’s room and stop a crying fit, and ask Ella to quit giggling just because she pooted.

I’m hoping, given that I’ve had at least 30 minutes of silence now, that the rest of the night will be peaceful. But I’m not overly optimistic…

Day Two – My Daughter, The Negotiator

This is her "Ah-ha! I've got you!" face. She makes it a lot.

I think my kid is going to grow up and be a lawyer. In fact, I know she is. I don’t know of any other five year-olds who put as much effort and thought into their begging to get their way.

Most kids just pitch one: eyes bulge, veins throb, tongues glisten with spittle, as the back of the little darling’s throat bleeds from the banshee wail pouring out of its mouth. Not my kid. She sidles up next to you, all sweet and cuddly, and she weaves her hand into yours with a smile. She kisses you on the cheek and then puts her head on your shoulder, and then – just for the certitude – she let’s out a little sigh of contentedness that would make even Ms. Hannigan’s heart melt. That’s when she hits you.

“Can I have some ice cream?”

“Daddy, can I watch just a little bit of my movie?”

“Can I stay up just a little later and play?”

“Daddy, what’s the limit on your credit card?”

Bam. She’s baited you with the sweet stuff, then she sets the hook good and deep. Now, sometimes, you are powerless to resist (or, if you’re my parents, all the time you are powerless to resist). Those moments happen, when she’s timed it just right and your mood is just right or your mind is somewhere else and you decide that, in the grand scheme of things, one more scoop of vanilla won’t end the earth. Those moments are harmless (or you tell yourself that) and don’t really reveal her true gift.

No, that only comes out when you tell her no. Ella looks at you, as if you spoke in a foreign language, and then re-phrases the question.

“I can have some ice cream?”

The dialog then runs like this:

“I said ‘no, you can’t have any ice cream.'”

“Why not daddy?” (Standard rebuttal. All kids do this.)

“Because you’ll ruin your appetite. Wait until after dinner.”

“But I’m hungry now.” (Solid logic for a five year old.)

“Then you need to go ahead and eat your dinner.”

“But then there won’t be room for ice cream.” (Smart kid, huh? She knows if she eats, she’ll get full and won’t really want the ice cream.)

“You’re right. But you need to eat healthy food first, and junk food second.”

“What’s for dinner again?” (Stall tactic. Usually a diversion while she thinks of another angle. Normally I would say don’t answer it, but if you don’t she’ll keep repeating until you do. Either way, she gets some time to think.)


“Those aren’t very healthy. Those are junk food.” (She establishes equivalency between my healthy food and her junk food. A semantic argument is now initiated.)

“Tacos aren’t like a salad, but they’re not like ice cream. You can’t eat ice cream for dinner.”

“Why not?” (Stalling again, but she’s got you on the ropes now.)

“Because, you need something filling to help you grow healthy.”

“Ice cream makes me full.” (See how she adroitly uses your own terminology to her advantage?)

“Yes, but being full and eating filling food isn’t the same.”

“It isn’t?” (Said with a half-legit, half-mocking raised eyebrow. Now you have to split hairs to nail down your meaning and she still gets more time to think.)

“Not, it’s not.”

“What’s the difference?” (What? You don’t think she’s gonna let you get off that easy, do you?)

“Ice cream has a lot of sugar in it, and too much sugar, though it makes your belly feel full, isn’t good for you. It’s not a good kind of full. You want a healthy full that gives you energy and keeps you well, so you don’t have to go to the hospital.” *

*This is a blatantly dirty trick on my part. She’s asthmatic, and has been to the hospital at least once a year for the past three years due to asthma related complications. Ella despises the hospital on the same level a Republican hates poor people or a Democrat hates good planning, so this is a very thinly veiled threat that if she doesn’t comply with my wishes, she’ll end up with an IV. Like I said, dirty.

“I don’t want to go to the hospital.”

“Good. Then eat your tacos.”

“How many bites do I need to eat to qualify for ice cream?” (Qualifying is something that my father-in-law, Jim White came up with a long time ago: the grandkids have to eat a certain amount of the food on their plate in order to ‘qualify’ for some dessert, which is served proportionally to the amount of food the kid has eaten.)

“Well, the more bites you take, the more ice cream you’ll get.”

“Oh.” (She’s stumped now. I didn’t give her a hard figure, just a vague promise that if she eats a lot, she’ll get a lot more ice cream. Back to the ‘if I eat my dinner, I’ll be too full for ice cream’ dilemma, only with a twist: how much is enough to get the maximum amount of ice cream and yet still leave room in the stomach for said ice cream? It’s the five year-old’s version of Ockham’s Razor.)

“Mmmmm.” (I’m just happy to have a moment’s peace at this point.)

“How about five?” (She knows this is usually the number I pull from my hat. She’s flattering me now.)

“Five BIG bites. Not your usual pitiful little bites.”

“Five BIG bites or five big bites?” (Semantics again.)

“Five BIG bites. You know the drill.”

“Urrrrggghshhhhtfl.” (Gagging.) “Your bites are too big daddy. How about five big bites instead?” (She’s made an attempt to meet the burden of proof, and is now arguing it’s too onerous.)

“Fine. Five big bites. But I’m counting.”

“Okay!” (Gobbles down five relatively decent sized bites.) “I’m ready for my ice cream now.”

“All right. But you only get as much as you ate.”

“Thank you, daddy.” (“Nice doin’ bidness with you, sucker.”)

And so it goes. I’m hoping to channel this into the debate club, or mock trial team at her elementary school. I swear, if I ever have to stand before the bench and require representation, I’m calling my daughter to my defense. I think she would wear out the Nine Supremes.

By the way – did I mention this is only Day TWO of Rachel’s trip?

Two Kids, Much Destruction

Choose the form of the Destructor: Ella, Jon or both?

I think any parent would say, with the uttermost conviction, that while they love their child (or in my case, children) there are times when the presence of the little tyke is more than overwhelming and not the least bit helpful.

This was one of those mornings.

It began innocently enough – after tossing and turning most of the night (mostly because Rachel’s gone, but the 2:00 AM alarm screech didn’t help; special thanks to last night’s storm for that), I finally settled into a nice, deep sleep. My dreams were pleasant. I was cozy.

And that’s when the presence appeared.

I was only aware of this ominous presence through my sub-conscious; I wasn’t awake or aware of my surroundings in any real sense of the term, but somehow, through closed eyes, I could see a spectral figure hovering near my face, lingering as if it desired something from me. I opened my eyes.

It was Ella. “Daddy,” she said, “I can’t get Polly Pocket’s boots on her. Can you do it for me?”

A quick glance at the clock: 7 AM. I’d gotten maybe four and a half hours of sleep. Polly Pocket’s bare feet begged for my assistance beneath the pleading eyes of my daughter. Sigh.

It took me five minutes to get the stupid boots on the doll. My daughter chirped with delight, leaned forward, and kissed me on the head. She chirped a heartfelt “Thanks daddy!” and skipped away with the doll. I rolled back over.

Thirty minutes later, I was awakened again by the plaintive cries of my son. I could hear his little voice drifting down the hallway, calling for his Mama like a kitten mewing for its mother. I tried to cover my eyes, but when I heard him cry out, “Where Mama? Daddy come!” I knew I needed to drag my butt out of bed. I staggered into his room, where he cheerfully greeted me with a “Yay! Daddy!” followed by the cold command for his morning repast: “Milk. Want milk.”

I changed his diaper and hustled into the kitchen, where I poured milk into an old bottle that had crap floating in it. Strike One. I poured a new bottle and put it in the microwave to heat. Strike Two. (For those that don’t know, you’re not supposed to heat anything in a plastic container in the microwave, under penalty of instant death.) I took the bottle out, poured the milk into a glass, got it heated, and then spilled half of it in the sink while trying to pour it into the bottle. Strike Three.

Jon got half a bottle and looked at me funny. He turned his back on me slowly, as if to say, “I despise you, you pitiful little man, you.”

Meanwhile, Ella had pulled out all of her Polly Pockets toys (another special thanks to the sadistic friends who gave her those blamed things as presents), which effectively meant that my living room went from clean to hurricane debris in under thirty-five seconds. I felt like I was looking at an aerial view of some post-apocalyptic event: tiny clothes, accessories, and bodies were strewn all over the floor at random. Jon added to the surrealism by tromping through and smashing dolls underfoot, sometimes stooping to pick one up and shove it in his nose – Snotzilla on the loose, I suppose.

I waded through the rubble and attempted to administer their morning medicines without event, and actually managed. Breakfast, however, would not be so easily conquered. Ella didn’t want to eat anything (“I’m not hungry,” she said. “But I would like some ice cream.” Apparently the kid thinks I’m an idiot.) and Jon wanted something he pronounced as “KSoehwrhcldr,” whatever that is. I popped open a can of biscuits. Jon immediately pointed at the fridge and said, “Bacon?” My kind of kid.

So I got the biscuits and bacon underway, got some coffee made, managed to get a few of the Polly Pocket survivors picked up and put away, when Ella decided she wanted a yogurt smoothie. I pulled a tiny bottle out of the fridge (we have a pre-packaged yogurt smoothie stash), poked a hole in the top, inserted a colorful bendy straw and handed it to her. She made a face as if I’d handed her a bottle of rancid animal waste.

“What’s wrong now?” I asked. “Isn’t this what you wanted?”

Her little lips went into full-power pout mode, and a tear materialized in her left eye.

“Yes,” she said, her voice quavering, “but you gave me an orange straw, and I only like pink straws.”

Those lips. That tear. Her face.

“Suck it up, sister,” I said, breezing past her, “we all have burdens to bear.”

She sniffed, rolled her eyes, and walked into the living room to victimize some more Polly Pockets. Meanwhile, my son was doing chin-ups on the oven door handle, shouting out “Hot! Hot! Hot!” I peeled him off the door and stuck him in his booster seat at the table, neglecting to buckle the belt. By the time I turned around, he was standing atop the table, dancing to silent music. Badly.

The oven dinged at this point, so I pulled out the biscuits, tossed a piece of perfectly cooked (read: nearly burned) bacon onto his plate, added a piping hot biscuit, and slid it in front of his chair. He climbed down and seated himself. Then he said “Uh-oh, daddy.” The biscuit had melted through the styrofoam plate. Jon looked at me and smiled.

“Bi-kit. Hot,” he said.

I would say so.

Anyway, the rest of the morning was a blur – Jon let me dress him, but drew the line at his shoes. He wanted his tennis shoes with the laces. I was in no position to argue. Ella wanted to wear flip-flops that didn’t match her sundress. Again, no argument from me. I essentially hustled my kids out the door looking very much as if they had been dressed by a person lacking in good vision or brains.

And if you know me, you know both are actually true. But we got out the door and to the church without incident, unless you count the three separate times I pulled away from the house only to back up and check to see if I’d shut the garage door. For whatever reason, I become completely OCD about very silly, stupid small things when I’m stressed.

So I’m in the office now, and am just about to leave to mail some birthday invitations to my son’s second birthday party, an RSVP for a May wedding, and drop off some prescriptions for Ella’s heinous sinus infection. Overall, an eventful morning.

Now if I could just remember where I left my keys…