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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Four Terrible Life Lessons I Learned from my 6-year old Daughter

I love my daughter, but she frightens, scares, and confuses me in exactly the same manner as my wife. And mother. And every other woman I've ever come into contact with. And can you blame me when I'm faced with such horrible life lessons as these:

4. Crying will get you your way.

But only if you're female. There is something in a woman's tears (no matter what age) that sends the male 'fix it' gene into overload. Our ears ring, we break into a cold sweat, and become nervous and panicky and we will literally do anything to make it stop, including but not limited to buying yet another hundred dollar American Girl doll, getting a pedicure, or enduring yet another Saturday at Chuck E Cheese.

Eventually, she was crushed under the weight of the toys she’d conned us into buying.

This is apparently something that women continue to get away with well past an age where they should really know better. Ladies and gentleman of the jury I submit to you this example--while driving in the car with a co-worker (we'll call her Shmennifer to protect her identity), she was pulled over for speeding. Before the cop came to our window, Shmennifer immediately burst into tears. What was the first thing the police officer said? Not, 'Do you have any idea how fast you were going?' like in every movie I've ever seen. Or even 'Did you know you just cut off an ambulance?' which she totally did. No, it was, "Are you alright?" followed quickly by an accusing look at me and, "Has he hurt you?" After several apologies (by me), a long-winded explanation, and what might be construed as a bribe, the police officer let me off with a warning as long as I promised never to upset this young lady again.

Likewise, my daughter continually plays the crying card. And she doesn't just reserve it for important things like traffic stops or $500 plumbing repair bills. It could be getting the wrong cup to drink out of, her brother sitting in a chair that she swears she was just about to sit in, or me not reading her goodnight story in the correct voice. And you know what? I totally cave every freaking time because 1) her tears confuse and frighten me and 2) once she starts it is damn near impossible to get her to stop--it's just easier to let go and give in and get it over with. I've also heard drowning described in almost those exact same words.

3. When in doubt, tattle.

I suspect that my forty-pound, blue-eyed daughter is some kind  of evil genius. Or at least a future dictator in training. There is no doubt she is going to make some man very miserable someday, and to my future son-in-law, I humbly apologize. I did my best, but I was blinded by a cloud of perfume, tears, and cuteness.

 Pictured Above: The face of pure evil.

My daughter loves tattling. LOVES IT. She takes a perverse delight in calling out my 9-year old son for sneaking a cookie, playing video games when he should be doing homework, or cooking up meth in his secret basement lab. And her evilness is not just reserved for him. If I so much as make a funny face behind my wife's back or let out a post Taco Bell toot, she's proudly pointing out my faux pas to anyone who will listen. She would have been perfectly home in Nazi-occupied Germany if, you know, she wasn't Jewish.

And for a while, she totally got away with this behavior (much longer than I care to admit). She was blameless, innocent, a saintly bastion of justice and sweetness rolled into the adorable packaging of a cute, little girl. Until one day, I happened to be standing in the kitchen watching the kids in the living room. I had just come from upstairs and they didn't appear to notice I was there. My oldest son was on the couch happily playing video games. My daughter was sitting on the floor looking at a book. She asked her brother if she could play, too. He grunted a 'Yeah, when I'm done,' because this is how all little boys communicate. She immediately burst into tears (see number 4 on this list) and began screaming for mom. I naturally assumed my daughter was having some kind of lady issues I was ill-prepared to deal with and would have called my wife, but this was the time she liked to lock herself in the bathroom and drink wine and I knew I couldn't interrupt her.

"What honey? What is it?" I asked.

"Alex hit me," my daughter said with the practiced, pathological coolness of a serial killer.

My son immediately affected the 'what the hell' look which I'd seen a hundred times before, but just naturally assumed was an admission of guilt.

"No, he didn't," I said, though with her crying I was no longer totally sure myself. "I was standing in the kitchen watching him."

She immediately stopped crying.

A mixture of emotions crossed her face. I imagine you would have seen the same look on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when the Mexican Army surrounded them. But, just like those famous outlaws, bravado, confidence, and practice kicked in and she went back to her go to escape route--more crying. "He never lets me play games," she added, hoping more tears would throw me off. And it totally did.

"Let your sister have a turn," I said, and went to knock on the bathroom door. My wife had been in there long enough.

Later, I thought back to dozens of other times when my lovely daughter called out my son for something and we immediately punished or yelled at him. It was like the moment in Sixth Sense where you finally find out that [15 year old spoiler alert] Bruce Willis is a ghost. All of a sudden you have to rethink the whole damn movie. Except instead of realizing that I'd just wasted two hours, I discovered that I'd really wronged my son and that no amount of toys was going to make up for it. But I tried anyway. You're welcome Toys R Us.

2. If you can't win, make them change the rules.

 Could you say no this face? Seriously, could you? I don’t know how.

My daughter lives in a family with two brothers and a sports-loving father. It's inevitable that she'll end up playing some kind of game with her siblings--whether it's football in the front yard, board games in the basement, or a race to see who gets the bathroom. Competition is just a given.

And in these competitions, my daughter usually comes up short. And it's not because she's weak or dumb, it's because she knows she doesn't have to put in the effort. See, the moment my daughter realizes she might not win, she resorts to tears or a look of hurt that would be more at home on Bambi's face after his mother [60 year old spoiler alert] got gunned down rather than on the face of someone who just got sent back to home in Candyland.

To stop the inevitable tide of tears (again, refer to number 4) or the crushing weight of female disappointment, I end up bending the rules in her favor. She's had more do-overs than Al Gore. More second chances than Lindsay Lohen. Um, more extra turns than, I don't know, something that makes a lot of turns. Jeff Gordon?

And yes, I realize this is just terrible enabling behavior because when she gets into the real world, my daughter is going to discover that life doesn't work like this. You don't just get things handed to you. You have to work your ass off to succeed. And even then success or rewards are not a given. Unless, of course, you're pretty.

1. Being pretty will get you everywhere.

My daughter is pretty. I say this, not with the blinded eye of a proud father, but with the impartiality of a man who knows his wife cheated on him, but isn't ready to
call her bluff.

And worse yet, my daughter knows she's pretty. And she's discovered that being pretty is enough to get her just about anything she wants. All she has to do is ask. Which she does. Frequently.

Even boys as young as two aren't safe from her charms.

Imagine walking into Outback Steakhouse, ordering the blooming onion rings, and asking if you could also have the rib eye for free. Imagine losing an event in the Olympics but asking if you could get a medal anyway. Or simply asking a neighbor you’ve never spoken with if you can go to their Super Bowl party (which you weren't invited to). These are the types of things my daughter routinely gets away with, albeit on a much smaller scale.

We're talking things like: extra ice cream toppings, free candy, free prizes at places like Chuck E Cheese, inviting herself over to people's houses, etc. At an amusement park, she was given a priority seating pass because she cried (see number 1) when she was too short to go on a particular ride.

I don't know if it's the fact that she's a kid, that she's cute, or that she's just brazen enough to ask for what she wants (think of just how difficult that is to do), or if it's just some magical elixir of all three elements that just opens doors for her. All I know is, my son doesn't get the same treatment and I've never had that and while that's not enough for a tight, scientific conclusion, I think it's safe to say that the reason for this is our penis-impairment.
There's a lesson to be learned from all of this, I just don't know what it is. I was close to figuring it out and making some great strides for all of mankind (emphasis on the man), but Shmennifer just dropped by and asked if I could do all of her work today so I have to go. Someday, we'll get there fellas.

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