The Ladybug has been having a blast in Florida visiting her Nana B. She’s also been a never-ending source of comedy while we’ve been here.
The Ladybug has always enjoyed playing in water, and she’s been particularly drawn to the pool, where she’ll spend hours splashing on the steps, walking along the walls, and throwing herself into the deep end in the hopes that I can get to her in time to prevent her from drowning. As a result, whereas she leaves the pool energized and wanting more, I leave the pool exhausted with significantly grayer hair. So one day after a round of particularly hazardous water play, I removed the Ladybug from the water and sent her into the house.
“No!” she said. “I want to swim in the pool.”
“I’m tired,” I replied. “Maybe tomorrow.”
“No, daddy. Tonow.”
“I want to swim in the pool tonow.”
Very frequently, the Ladybug utters collections of sounds for which I cannot immediately ascertain a definition. In such cases, I simply ignore them and continue.
“No, Ladybug. I’m tired. Maybe… maybe… we can go tonight.”
“NO!” she insisted. “Tonow!”
“I want to swim tonow!”
I tried to figure this out again, but failed. “What?”
“I want to swim. Not to-morrow. Not to-night. Not to-day. To-now!”
The other night, the Nana B gave the Ladybug a toy key chain. On it is a small black-and-white spotted cow with a small button on its head that, when pressed, causes the cow to moo while a bright beams of light bursts through the nostrils, as if in the midst of some horrific bovine exorcism. The Nana B demonstrated this to the Ladybug.
“Moooooooooo!” went the cow.
“Hee hee hee!” laughed the Ladybug, who took the cow and shook it around, expecting it to moo and light up. When it did not, she stood straight up and inspected the toy with a comical degree of precision, trying to unlock its secret. After a few minutes of nonactivity from the cow, she walked over to me, held the cow out in her hands, and announced, “I need help.”
“You need to push button,” I said.
The Ladybug eyed the cow for a moment, finally noticing the pressable little bump on the cow’s head. She stabbed it with her index finger. Suddenly, there was a quick flash of light and a quick “Muh–” from the cow, which surprised the Ladybug enough that she let go of the button, and the light and sound stopped.
Realizing that this was not correct, the Ladybug screwed up her face in concentration and tried to fix the problem, experimenting with different ways to hold the cow or the button, but always releasing it the minute the cow made noise, earning only a rudimentary stroboscopic light show punctuated by “Muh–… Muh–… Muh–… Muh–… Muh–…”
After a few more minutes of this, the Ladybug walked over to me, held the cow out in her hands, and announced, “I need help.”
“You need to the hold the button down,” I suggested.
The Ladybug eyed the cow with a look of disbelief. Finally, with a resigned look, the Ladybug sighed and bent over at the waist. She then held the cow at arm’s length, grasping it just a few inches above the ground, and stabbed the button again.
It’s nighttime, and I’ve just finished reading the Ladybug her bedtime story — Noah’s Ark, as it happens — and tucking her in, surrounding her with her menagerie of stuffed animals and dollies.
“Good night Ladybug,” I say, and kiss her gently on the forehead. I then click off the light and walk out of the guest bedroom, where the Ladybug is sleeping while we’re in Florida.
I close the door and start to walk away, but within moments, it reopens. The Ladybug is standing behind it, her hand on the handle and her face concerned.
“Daddy!” she cries. “Daddy! Daaaaaaaaddy!”
I spin in a panic, and rush back to her. “What? What is it?”
“I need something,” she says.
I go through my mental checklist of bedtime necessities: Pajamas? Check. Teeth brushed? Check. Bedtime story? Check. Toys? Check. Blankets tucked in? Check. I don’t think I’ve missed anything, so I shoo her back to bed.
“Go to sleep,” I say.
“But I need something,” she insists.
I relent. “What do you need?”
“Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…” she says, looking up at the ceiling and trying to think of something. “Water?”
Nice try, I think. “No water after 8 o’clock,” I remind her. I scoop the Ladybug back up, put her back in the bed, pull the covers back up to her neck, and kiss her goodnight again.
“Good night, Ladybug,” I say, and close the door.
As I walk away, I hear the sound of the door reopening, followed by the Ladybug’s cries.
“Daddy! Daddy! Daaaaaaaaddy!”
“What?” I ask.
“I need something.”
“No you don’t. Go to bed.”
“But,” she insists, “I need something.”
“What do you need?”
“Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…” she says with a sly smile. “Cookies?”
I grab my daughter and deposit her in the bed again. I pull the covers up to her neck, give her a quick kiss, and walk out the door.
“Good night kid,” I say, and close the door.
As I walk away, I hear the door open, and my kid wailing.
“Daddy! Daddy! Daaaaaaaaddy!”
I spin around, irritated. “What?”
“I need something.”
“No you don’t,” I say, and snatch her up to redeposit her in bed.
The Ladybug squirms in my arms. “But I really need something,” she pleads.
I put her in bed, throw the covers over her and give her my best stern-daddy stare. “What?”
“Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm… I love you?”
I close the door, and this time, I lock it.