Today you turned 20 months old.
Often when I sit to compose these newsletters for you, I’m often challenged by the sheer enormity of chronicling your changes, for even over a measly thirty days, you manage morph into a completely new creature. How do I distill all the changes and events and attitudes of you into a single post? Is it possible to sum up the entire parent-child bonding experience forged over the course of a month into only a few paragraphs? Most months it is impossible, and I do what I can to cobble some slightly less-than-comprehensible narrative for completeness’ sake.
But this month was easy. This month can be distilled into a single word.
Yes, this month marked your first Halloween, that classic holiday wherein young children express their thanks for the torment of demonic possession and supernatural terror by begging on doorsteps for sugary foodstuffs under threat of prankish retribution while dressed as Power Rangers and Disney Princesses. While we did not dress you up as either of these — in fact, we dressed you as, uninventively enough, a ladybug — we did introduce you to the wonderful world of super-candy-funtime-goodness, and our world has never been the same since.
On Halloween Eve, or All Hallow’s Day’S Eve’s Eve, as it is less affectionately but more recursively known, your mother introduced you to the festive pastime of vegetable lobotomy as she let you help her gut and disembowel a pair of teeny tiny pumpkins on our kitchen floor. The highlight of the experience for you was not the excuse to make a fantastic mess with gourd guts (which you in fact showed a little distaste for), but rather that mom had finally, after months and months of coercion, finally gave in and let you run with knives. In fact, you should have been thrilled to get a pumpkin at all, since I had to drive all over the Black Hills to find a pair of pumpkins that would pass your mother’s exacting criteria of being suitably round, orange, small, and not hideously cancerously deformed the night before Halloween.
On Halloween night itself, we dressed you up in a little ladybug costume, put on your ladybug booties, gave you a bumblebee candy bag (in the interest of entomological diversity), and painted your nose black. You were not thrilled by the latter, and you and your mom spent a fitful half-hour of spirited brinkmanship during which you alternated between her painting your nose black and you wiping it off before it set, a conflict eventually only resolved by your mother stapling your arms to your sides.
We then tossed you into the car and headed over to the mall for a “safe” Halloween experience, wherein parents and children formed a massive line around the inner perimeter of the mall that slowly rotated counterclockwise, systematically passing by each store front where a festively decorated retail professional dropped candy into the eager hands of equally festively decorated (and significantly more excited) children. Think of it as the longest ride line at Disneyland, except that it spirals back upon itself and completely bypasses the ride in question.
At least, that’s what it’s like for parents. For you, little Ladybug, it was consumer nirvana. Person after person was falling over themselves to give you candy. Candy! For you! Candy! And mom was letting them do it! Give you candy! Candy! You were so excited by this development and the concept that it might end that we stayed at the mall for two hours as you circumnavigated the whole of the mall twice… under your own power… to fill up your candy bag. Your mother and I congratulated ourselves on a successful introduction to Halloween and scooted you off home, only to be forced of the road by your shrieks of panic to find out that — Holy crap! — there are kids outside the mall still getting candy from strangers, and by God Almighty, you would not be deprived. So we also took you out for a round of authentic, non-consumer-sanitized trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, finally ending the night with a bag of candy that weighed as much as a small Buick.
That night you slept the exhausted sleep of angels.
The next morning we descending into Hell.
It never really occurred to your mother and I that you would remember all that candy you collected, after all, we were so exhausted racing after you from the night before that we could barely remember it. But you… you knew. You knew you had a bag of candy that had somehow disappeared overnight. (SPOILER HINT: Mommy did it! Blame her!) “Candy?” you’d ask. “Do you want to color?” I’d ask. “Candy?” you’d reply. “DO you want some cheese?” I’d ask. “Candy?” you’d reply. “Candy?” you’d continue. “Candy?” you’d clarify. “Candy?” you’d insist. “Candy?” “Candy?” “Candy?”
I suppose if we’d just held out a few days, you might have forgotten, but that night we gave you some of your hard-earned candy for dessert, and suddenly you knew that your candy was still existent, and hidden throughout the house. Hence, most of November consisted of you devising means to climb into every nook and cranny of the house in the search for your candy, an collection of activities that have resulted in your trifecta of abilities to climb into your high chair unassisted, violate other’s mail, and pick locks with nothing but a bottle nipple and a plastic hair clip, a dubious set of skills that will serve you well in, say, Fulsom Prison.
You also perfected quite the soft sell when it came to your candy dealings. Upon earning a piece of, say, candy corn, you’d squirrel it away and then come back with “Candy?” If I said there was no more candy, you saw your opening, and would grab my hand and forcibly walk me to, say, the fridge or the pantry or some cupboard behind which you knew a stash of candy was hiding and point out that “yes, there is in fact more candy, and it is conveniently located right here where I have so kindly directed you.” With an argument that compelling, how could I refuse?
Eventually when you’d pop up with “Candy?”, I’d counter the less-easily-challeneged “You just had candy.” “Mooorrrre?” you’d ask with a pondering face, signing. “No more candy,” I’d say. “Plleeeaaaase?” you’d counter, batting you little eyelashes and signing feriously. “No more candy.” And then you’d deal your trump card: you point your index finger up as say with a squinty grin “Just onnne?,” thereby appealing to may innate satisfaction of your competent numeracy and virtually ensuring yourself another piece of candy.
As your candy supplies dwindled, you amused us immensely by trying to replicate the candy-obtaining event, by occasionally emerging from your room haphazardly dressed in your ladybug costume toting your bumblebee bag, march to the back door, and announce “Car? Candy!” in a futile attempt to motivate us to take you to the mall to restock on stranger-provided sugar. Eventually you surmised that candy-collection was not a function of your whole Halloween costume itself, and so over the week that followed experimented with other combinations that would return you to candied favor, such as just painting the nose black, or just wearing ladybug boots, or just taking your bumble-bee bag when we went in the car, or (my personal favorite) just walking up to the cashier kiosks at the stores in the mall and demanding candy and stickers from the comically befuddled staff.
Somewhere in the midst of this month’s candied combat we also celebrated our one-year anniversary of being made a family. On November 13, we celebrated our official “Forever Family Day” by going out to the Olive Garden and letting you open your mom’s birthday presents. Among them was the DVD of Ratatouille, a movie that, given your exposure to a large poster for the Ratatouille video game featuring the protagonist mouse carrying a large block of cheddar, you immediately dubbed “Cheese,” and then proceeded to ask to watch it eighty-seven thousand times per minute, a trait that one might find irritating if not for the fact that it at least diverts you from asking for candy.
Of course, like all good holidays, the real celebration was on “Forever Family Day Observed,” the following Saturday. There, you and I and mom, together with all of the folks in Rapid City who helped cover our (cl)asses while we were gone in China to fetch you, enjoyed a traditional round-table Chinese dinner in your honor, swapping stories about parenting and sharing our collective marvel at the amazing little girl you’ve become.
That night we brought you home, and I whisked you off to bed. As I put you down, I whispered “I love you” in Chinese, and shared a hushed conversation with you in the dark that typifies that special father-daughter bond we’ve developed.
Me: Wo ai ni.
You: Eye nee.
Me: Thanks, baby girl. Go to sleep, pumpkin.
Me: Not now, honey. It’s bedtime. We’ll watch it later.
Me: Tomorrow, pumpkin.
Me: NO! No “Cheese” tonight. Stop asking.
[ Pause. ]
Such is life in the Komplexify home.
I love you, Ladybug. Now stop asking for candy.
See more pictures from your twentieth month of existence over at Flickr.