I love my child. I love my child. I love my child.
But also—CLEARLY—she’s systematically trying to destroy me. Somehow that little 5-year-old brain has worked out exactly what buttons of mine to push, and she pushes and pushes and pushes them. She’s either an evil genius or she has what comedian Bill Cosby famously describes as “brain damage.” It’s a miracle, really, that more parents don’t end up in mental institutions.
Take, for example, the conversation that happens every evening in our house:
ME: “Dinner’s almost ready, hon. Why don’t you go ahead and go potty and wash up?”
OLIVIA: “I don’t have to go potty.”
ME: “Why don’t you try? You haven’t gone in hours.”
OLIVIA (whining): “But I don’t have to go!”
ME: “Honey, I’m not asking you. I’m telling you. GO POTTY AND WASH YOUR HANDS.”
OLIVIA (stomping foot in disgust and pouting): “FINE!”
Then, after five minutes of silence, I pop into the bathroom to check on her. I find her half naked on the toilet, singing and flipping through a book (why does she have to take her pants and panties all the way off?)
ME: “Are you going?”
OLIVIA: “No. I don’t have to go potty.”
ME: “Okay, then. Get up. Dinner’s just about ready.”
She hops off the toilet and I peek in. Yep. There’s poop in there.
ME: “I thought you said you didn’t have to go potty???”
OLIVIA: “Oh, yeah! (laughing) I forgot. I had to poop a little bit.”
ME: “Okay, well, wipe yourself real good. Then close the lid and flush the toilet. Then put on your panties and your pants, and wash your hands.”
Yes, I have to say all that.
Five minutes later, it’s still silent in the bathroom.
ME: “Olivia? What are you doing? Did you wash up?”
ME (agitated): “What are you doing in there?! Dinner’s on the table!”
I storm in and find her standing, naked from the belly down, on the step stool in front of the sink, making faces at herself in the mirror.
ME: “What the heck are you doing?”
I look in the toilet. Yep. There’s still poop in there. And there is no toilet paper in there with it.
ME: “Olivia Jane! You didn’t wipe! Get over here and wipe yourself! What did I say before?”
OLIVIA: “I just wanted to see what my face looked like!”
ME: “Okay, I am about to say it a third time: WIPE YOURSELF RIGHT NOW!”
OLIVIA: “Okay!! Fine!!”
She stomps over to the toilet, takes 2 squares of toilet paper.
ME: “OLIVIA! YOU POOPED! TAKE MORE TOILET PAPER!”
She takes more…at an inhumanly slow pace.
ME (sighing): “Here, let me just do it!”
I hurriedly grab a bundle of toilet paper and hand it to her. She wipes herself. Then stares at it in her hand. There’s poop on it.
ME: “Okay, keep wiping!”
She moves to wipe herself again with the same toilet paper.
ME: “NO! Jeez! Throw it in the toilet and take more toilet paper!!!!”
She does. Finally, she’s done wiping.
ME: “Okay, now, close the lid, flush the toilet, put on your pants and panties, wash your hands, and get out here. It’s dinnertime.”
I leave, and hear the toilet flush behind me. Minutes pass, during which time I assume she’s on the floor putting her panties and pants on. I then hear the water run, for three seconds.
ME: “Hey! That’s not washing your hands! Get back in there!”
OLIVIA (heaving a great, put-upon sigh): “I did wash my hands!”
ME: “Did you use soap?”
OLIVIA: “No!” (indignantly)
ME (heaving a great, put-upon sigh): “Okay. Listen to me. I have now said it three times: WASH YOUR HANDS. WITH SOAP. DO NOT JUST PUT SOAP ON YOUR HANDS AND IMMEDIATELY RUN WATER OVER IT. SCRUB YOUR HANDS. MAKE BUBBLES ON YOUR HANDS WITH THE SOAP. THEN RINSE THE SOAP COMPLETELY OFF UNTIL YOUR HANDS AREN’T SLIPPERY ANYMORE. THEN DRY THEM OFF. THEN GET IN HERE AND EAT THIS DINNER, IT’S GETTING COLD.”
This is all before we’ve even sat down to eat. Before I have to ask her, I’m absolutely not kidding you, TEN TIMES, to eat her dinner, because she keeps randomly hopping off her seat to give hugs (she really knows how to work it) or go get a doll that she’d like to have sit beside her, or, believe it or not, go potty because she now has to pee. Or she simply forgets to eat, and her eyes start roaming the table looking for entertainment. And her daddy and I find ourselves saying, repeatedly, “Eat your dinner. Eat it. EAT! IT!”
It’s before I tell her, at bedtime, “go get your jammies on” and then find her, five minutes later, in her playroom coloring.
ME: “What did I just say? GET YOUR JAMMIES ON.”
And then have to ask her four more times. And then she stops, mid-change, to come into the living room naked (why did she take off her panties?) and sit on the couch to see whatever commercial is on TV that could distract her from the bedtime proceedings.
ME: “OLIVIA! Why are you sitting on the couch naked???? That’s gross! You’re spreading your germs! WE SIT ON THAT COUCH! COME ON! Why don’t you have your jammies on?”
OLIVIA (whining): “But I just wanted to see this!”
ME: “I’m gonna count to ten, and when I’m done, you better have your jammies on, young lady! One… two… “
OLIVIA (stomping her foot and pouting): “FINE!”
And this is all before, once jammies are on, teeth are brushed, goodnight kisses are done, the outfit for tomorrow has been selected, and books for bedtime reading have been completed, and lights finally go out 45 minutes after the entire process began, and her daddy and I pour glasses of wine and take our seats on the couch for a well-earned break. And for the next hour, we’re disturbed by her calls of:
“I have to go potty!”
“My nightlight’s too bright!”
“I can’t get my covers to go over my head all the way!”
“My hair is itching me!”
“Peanut (the cat) is in my room!”
“Can I get another hug?”
“Why are you laughing?”
I love my child. I love my child. I love my child. I love my child…