Newsletter: month thirty-two

Dear Ladybug,

Yesterday you turned thirty-two months old, and a week ago we celebrated the second anniversary of our becoming a “forever family.”

To celebrate this pair of milestones, your mommy’s mommy, the Nana B, has once again come to visit us from Florida.   She arrived late yesterday night, as a matter of fact, and you are not unexpectedly delighted by her arrival, partly because it will mean you get to stay home with her during the day and play, but mostly because Nana has the authority to override parental restrictions on candy consumption.

And, of course, candy consumption has been a key issue this month, seeing as how it involved Halloween.   However, oddly enough, it hasn’t been the main one.   Last year, we spent the post-Halloween weeks in an epic battle of wills, wherein you tried every conceivable form of flattery and deception to eat candy every minute of the day while I tried futilely to prevent you from developing childhood diabetes.    Hence, I was prepared on the morning  of November 1 with a battery of  forceful “No” comments and several vials of insulin.

Imagine my surprise, then,  to discover that your first request  that morning —  and each subsequent morning thereafter  —  was not to eat a bowl of Fun-Size Snickers sprinkled with Tootsie-Pops, but was instead to wear your Tinker Bell costume.   The Saturday after Halloween I happily acquiesced, and  on Sunday I agreed less enthusiastically, but  in the half-hour before leaving for school on Monday morning, I drew the line.   Unfortunately, I think there was some kind of miscommunication there, for what I clearly said was “No,” you clearly heard as only a starting point for further negotiations: “How about I wear my Tinker Bell costume right now, and in a little bit I can wear clothes?” or  “I’ll wear that shirt you picked, but I get to wear my Tinker Bell shoes” or “But my butterfly wings match my socks!   Do you want me not to be color coordinated?”   It’s like haggling with J. Wellington Wimpy: you’ll gladly pay me Tuesday for a Tinker Bell costume today.

However, I’ve chalked up your incessant bartering less to an inherent argumentativeness on your part than to a burgeoning sense of inquiry, as evidenced by your never-ending queries of “Why? Why? Why?”   You ask it ALL. THE. TIME.   At first I was delighted by this, for  it was amazing to watch your curiosity develop and see you acting as a little scientist:

You: It’s dark outside Daddy.   Why?

Me: Because it’s nighttime.

You: Why?

Me: Because the sun has set, so it’s not in the sky to light things up.

You: Why?

Me: Because the Earth has turned away from the sun…

You: Why?

Me: It’s a direct consequence of the Laws of Newtonian motion…

You: Why?

…at which point I sidebar to a lengthy vector calculus derivation, only to be interrupted by a request to wear your Tinker Bell costume.

This conversation also illustrates the problem with your insatiable wonder: you never stop asking why?   Given my mathematical predilection for exactness, I do my best to answer each of your queries*, but my knowledge base only goes so far.   More to the point, while I appreciate the logical empiricism with which you analyze things, it turns out that there are many statements about which I’d prefer your blind faith, such as “It’s time for bed” or “You need to eat your peas” or “Knock that off, you’re driving me crazy.”

* By contrast, your mother tends to answer your “Why?” with the Assertion of Parental Infallibility: “Because I told you so.”   And while I try to avoid it on the ground given above, even I use the Assertion of Parental Infallibility from time to time.   Speaking as a trained mathematician,  I’ll admit that you are on logically sound ground to question its veracity, but speaking as  your parent,  I’d suggest you’d spend a lot less of your existence in “Time Out” if you’d just accept it.

However, when looking over the month as a whole, I’m actually not sure your empiricism is paying off, since the most common phrase you utter besides “Why?” is “I don’t know.”   Indeed, if I had to distill this past month’s vocabulary into it’s chief components, I’m pretty sure it would look like this:

It’s not that you actually don’t know most things.   Quite the contrary, in fact: you quite often know exactly what you’re talking about, but you use “I don’t know” as a filler, a multisyllabic replacement for “Um,” as in

“What color is that?”
“I don’t know. Green.”

or

“What do you want to drink?”
“I don’t know.   Apple juice.”

or

“What don’t  you know?”
“I don’t know. Wait, what?”

One of the major difficulties  I’ve had this month talking to you is  learning to distinguish between you pretending to be a moron because you can’t be bothered to think and want someone else to do it for you, pretending to be a moron just to  be silly, and really genuinely being a moron.

I’ve tried to teach you a lesson by asking Why? every time  you say I don’t know, but the resulting conversation of

You: I don’t know.

Me: Why?

You: I don’t know.

Me: Why?

You: I don’t know.

Me: Why?

You: I don’t know.

Me: Why?

[ repeat ad nausuem ]

revealed that the only  lesson learned is not the intended one of  you discovering irritating it is to ask Why? indiscriminately, but rather me learning that subtle object lessons were probably wasted on you.   That, and that you’re susceptible to infinite-loop run-time errors.

Of course, I’m only giving you grief because I love you.   You continue to learn new things every day, such as your ability to brush your teeth, load and run the dishwasher, load and watch DVDs, unload the drier and fold clothes, make Macaroni and Cheese or popcorn, you name it.   You know, now that I list them, it is clear that you mastered a good many tasks of menial labor, which might go some way to explaining your ever growing fascination with Cinderella.   Watching you is a bit like watching a supercomputer, albeit one that dresses up as a pixie more often.

All in all, of course, it is clear that you know a lot more about the world than you’re letting on.   Just take our conversation the other day.

You: Whatcha doodin’, Daddy?

Me: I’m grading homework.

You: On the computer?

Me: That’s right?

You: Why?

Me: Because these are computer projects.

You: Like art projects?

Me: A little.

You: Oh.   What’s that?

Me: That’s a graph.   It’s a picture that tells a story.

You: Why?

Me: You’ll have to wait until you’re in school to find out.

You: Why?

Me: Because I need to finish my grading first.

You: Oh.   What’s that?

Me: That’s the escape button.   Don’t push that.

You: Why?

Me: It’ll screw up my grading.

You: What’s this?

Me: That’s the power button.   Don’t push that either.

You: Why?

Me: It’ll turn off my computer!

You: Why?

Me: Don’t touch it!

You: Why?

Me: Because I said so! Why are you being such a little pest?

You: I don’t know.

[ pause ]

You: Because I love you Daddy! Now gimme a kiss.

Clearly, you’ve learned how to manipulate Daddy.

I love you too, little Tinker Bell.   Why?   Because I said so.

Ba ba

Photo album

See more pictures from your thirty-second month over at Flicker.

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