(267, 1, ‘2008-07-19 20:26:06’, ‘2008-07-19 20:26:06’, ‘Dear Ladybug,
Today you turn twenty-eight months old!
…No wait. This month you turned twenty-eight months old, but it’s easy to confuse this with last month since you started it off by getting Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. Again. For Pete’s sake, little girl, couldn’t you vary the plagues you infect yourself with from time to time?
The doctor said that it’s not uncommon for kids to have a relapse of HFMD, but I suspect you just wanted to have medically-sanctioned ice cream again.
At least, it wouldn’t surprise me if that were true, since it’s precisely the kind of clever, forward-thinking abstract thinking — that is, deception — that you’ve mastered this month. Like a pig-tailed little Skynet, your mental capabilities are expanding at a geometric rate, and just like Skynet, you’re using your new found abilities only for evil. Let me give a few examples.
This month you’ve started repeating everything you hear. Everything. Given that your parents on their very best behavior are still foul-mouth heathens, this has caused quit a bit of consternation on our parts as we constantly seek to censor ourselves, lest we hear a non-empty subset of George Carlin’s Seven Words parroted back at us with a dimpled smile and a lateral lisp. I originally suggested that we start a “Dammit Jar” fund in which we throw a buck every time we say something we shouldn’t in front of you, but your mother poo-pooed that idea when she discovered she could empty her wallet just watching Project Runway. Fortunately, you haven’t yet figured out that certain words are more offensive than others… but you have figured out the power of words none the less.
For example, early on this month you connected the two concepts that (a) that your age is the word “two” and (b) the first question you are invariably asked by any mommy you meet at the park is “How old are you?,” and so you quickly learned to answer “Two.” In fact, you were so proud of this fact that actually said it in more of a lyrically taunting way, like “I’m tooo-eee-ooo!,” which you began accompanying by holding up (paradoxically enough) your single pointer finger.
So one day we went to the park, and sure enough you proudly announced to every man, woman, and child there that you were two years old. After we played a bit, you hopped back into the stroller and we began to amble back home. As we walked out of the park, we passed several baseball diamonds alive with the energetic shouts of Little Leaguers fielding balls and energetic parents threatening of bodily harm to opposing coaches. Fascinated by the sight of little boys hitting balls with sticks, you asked “What that is?”
“They’re playing baseball,” I answered.
“I play baseball too?” you asked.
“No,” I said. “You’re too little for baseball yet.”
This didn’t seem to go over well with you, so I sought to clarify the problem a bit more. “I think you need to be five years old before you start playing tee-ball on a team,” I added helpfully. I let this sink in for a second, and then to help drive the point home, followed this up with, “And how old are you, Ladybug?”
You stared for a second, and then with a grin announced “I five” and stuck out your fully open hand.
In fact, now when anyone asks you how old you are, you answer without any hesitation “I five. I play baseball now.” before giving a knowing look at me, as if to remind me that I ought to get your ass to the dugout pronto. You know, when most girls lie about their age, they usually opt for a lesser value; I get a girl with Anthony Michael Hall Breakfast Club aspirations.
On a related note, you’ve actually become terribly fascinated with numbers this month, even if they’re unrelated to your age. Very often, you’ll spread out your toys on the ground and proceed to count them up. Early on, you’d simply assign random numbers as you counted, such as “Four… seven… eight… one… too… TEN!” Each time you’d spit out new random string of digits, with the only commonality being that all counting ending with TEN shouted in a particularly endearing triumphant tone. With a little coaching from yours truly, however, you’ve discovered that not all sets of objects have TEN items in them, and that when counting, the numbers do come in a particular order.
So now when you count, you point your index finger and very deliberately count “One… two…. free…. four…. siss… seven…” When you invariably miss five, I remark “Oops! You missed five!,” whereupon you stop, and announce “Five.”
And after a moment’s pause, follow up with “I play baseball NOW Daddy?”
It turns out that your propensity to fib goes well beyond the time-honored tradition of lying about your age. As another example, last week I took you back to daycare for the first time since your Nana visited you. Though I tried to convince you that all your friends would be there and that you would get to play at the playground and make art projects and watch movies, you whined and cried and fussed that you didn’t want to go. Nevertheless, I dropped you off there in the morning, and in the afternoon I returned to fetch you. As I walked to your room, I saw a new finger-painting of a flower with your name under it, and as I walked out back, I found you playing with your friend Diane, climbing up the side of a plastic fort and digging through the rocks looking for real ladybugs. When you eventually saw me waiting, you happily rushed over and gave me a hug, and we made our way back to the car. As I buckled you into your car seat, I asked you about your day.
“Did you have fun today, Ladybug?” I asked.
“No,” you replied matter-of-factly.
“Didn’t you make a pretty flower painting today?” I persisted.
“No,” you insisted.
“Didn’t you play outside in the playground?” I continued.
“No,” you blatantly lied.
“Didn’t you get to see your friend Diane?” I egged one last time.
“What,” I asked sarcastically, “did you just sit around in the dark all day doing nothing?”
“Yes!” you answered, at which point I threw a stuffed animal at you.
The very next day you went to daycare again. When I picked you up that afternoon, I again found you outside at the playground, giggling on the teeter-totter you shared with Diane. I picked up, gave you a quick hug, and asked you what you did that day at daycare.
For a moment you seemed deep in thought, as if trying to sort out all the things you did into some reasonable order suitable for exposition. Then suddenly you broke into a wicked grin.
“I SAT. In the DARK. All DAY.”
Good Lord, I’ve adopted Pinocchio.
After three weeks of dealing with your varying degrees of subterfuge, your mom and I decided enough was enough and tried to send you to military school to straighten you out, only to find that you need to be older than two… or five even… before Uncle Sam will take you. So we instead did the next best thing: we decided to let you experience several days of “roughin’ it” by camping in Custer State Park. To that end, we packed up a backpack of clothes and a ginormous cooler of foods, dropped you off in the Great Outdoors, and wished you luck, and drove away.
Then your mom smacked me upside the head, so we drove back and set up camp with you.
While you loved being able to run around the forest and play in the dirt and crawl around the tent, when it came to bedtime it became clear that you were entirely against the whole “sleeping bag” concept. We set up our air mattress on the far side of the tent, and then laid your air mattress and sleeping bag next to it, so that you would be right next to me. Unfortunately, you found being wrapped inside the sleeping bag like an Asian burrito too constricting for comfort, and so I spent most of the each night repeatedly removing you from off of my pillow (or, more frequently, off my head resting on my pillow) and repacking you into your sleeping bag. The following is a pretty representative sample of our late-night conversations.
Me: Get off my head, Ladybug, and get back in your bed, Ladybug,” I’d insist.
You: I sleep with you?
Me: No. You have your own bed.
You: I sleep with you? Please, Daddy? I said please.
Me: That’s very polite, but you have to sleep in your own bed.
[ Pause ]
You: But… I love you, Daddy.
At which point your mother would laugh with both the quiet pride at your mastery of emotional manipulation and the sweet knowledge that she wouldn’t have to deal with this again in thirty minutes.
While our campsite had a small playground, your favorite place at the campsite was the “beach” — a small section of the lake shore from which the grass had been removed and a thin layer of sand replaced there instead. You sat at the edge of the water, endlessly shuffling mud from one pile to another pile, like a rapidly melting version of the Towers of Hanoi. As we watched you sift sand hour after hour, your mother fretted that you were going to grow up with crippling OCD, while I was hoping you’d test out of the first few semesters of CS courses.
In fact, we actually went camping with our friends S and G, and their kids Abby and Greg, and it was immediately clear to you that those people, unlike your stuffed-shirt city-slicker parents, really knew how to camp. Not only did they expose you to your first smores, they also brought a out-rigger canoe to take you and Abby out paddling on the lake. I only bring this up because they also let your mom and I take you out on their canoe. Together, the Komplexify family glided across the water, me at the bow in the little watercraft, your mother at the stern, and you gift-wrapped in a lifevest between us. There was a small island in the lake, and twice we circumnavigated it, carefully guiding the boat through a narrow corridor of rocky outcrops and gnarly tangles of seaweed (or is it lakeweed? I dunno.). After a half hour on the lake, you started nodding off, so we decided to head ashore. And as we came into the beach, there in front of our friends and all the other hardened campers who were also gathered there, out in the middle of the vast and otherwise empty lake, I managed to get the out-rigging tangled in a buoy.
You also got to do some gold panning, an activity that combines the excitement of washing dishes with the empty promise of getting rich quick. At first you were delighted at the activity, which combined your aforementioned proclivity for mucking in the dirt with your (still unfathomable to me) fascination with dish washing. However, when it became clear to you that the object of the game was not to get the mud all over your hands but was, in fact, to actually wash it all away, you harumphed the whole exercise and demanded to be taken back to the beach.
So to sum up: it’s been a busy month, wherein you mastered the arts of outdoorsmanship and super-villainy. Still, I wouldn’t have you any other way, my little sweetie.
Now go sit in your dark room all day and think about what you’ve done.
— Ba ba
See more pictures from your twenty-eighth month of existence over at Flickr.
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