Our toddler daughter, F., is typical in nearly every way. She has no language delay (in fact, she is probably ahead of the curve), she can run like a gazelle and climb like a monkey. She is toilet-trained (though she wears a pull-up at night), she can dress herself with little assistance, and she even likes to help around the house. Sounds like a perfect kid, right? But no.
Lately I have become aware of a major flaw in her character, one that may bode ill for her future, one that – as she enters the territory of “terrible three’s”, which I have heard far outstrip the challenges of the “two’s” – is only too apparent.
She is completely illogical.
This becomes only too clear during times of transition such as changing from sleep attire to day wear. She is resistant beyond the bounds of reason. “I don’t want to wear pants!” she says, flinging herself onto the floor and shrieking as if we have just told her Big Ben, our dog, has spontaneously burst into flame and is no more.
“You cannot run around the house without pants. You’ll get cold,” I tell her, knowing that my argument is sound and irrefutable. Yet she refutes it.
“No! I won’t!”
“Yes. You will.”
“No, I won’t. I won’t get cold!”
I study her face, squinched up and tear-coursed. I imagine an adult taking the same tack, and an entire scene plays out in my mind: the CEO of my company, racing down the hallway in shirt, tie, and skivvies, followed by his faithful assistant brandishing a pair of seasonless wool slacks. “I’m not cold! I’m not!” my boss says, ducking into the board room and diving beneath a table. “Leave me alone!”
“If you want your Starbucks,” the assistant says, “you need to come out of there and put on your pants.”
“We have Starbucks?” the CEO says, peeking out from beneath a chair.
“Yes, and real half-and-half. From a carton.”
“Really…?” he says, half-doubtful, yet starting to emerge nonetheless. Soon he is ensconced in appropriate office-wear and headed for the break room. Meanwhile my daughter is still in “child’s pose” on the kitchen floor, her bare goose-pimpled rump proving my argument.
“If you get up right now, and put on your underwear and pants, then you can have a snack.” Here I am – bribing my daughter with food, and bribing her to do something that every sane person would do willingly and without an extrinsic reward.
Then it hits me: childhood is a form of insanity. The trick, as a parent, is to run the madhouse without going crazy yourself.
“Can I have candy?”
“You can have pudding.” It’s halfway between a sweet and a glass of milk, right? And it gets the job done. She finally gets up and gets dressed, and in a moment is calmly eating her snack with no trace of the shrieking fit of five minutes ago.
Split personalities. Definitely.