I am standing in the entryway, a lunchbox hanging from my elbow, a child’s snow boot clutched in my outstretched hand.
“But do you see the snow outside?” I ask, motioning toward the window with the faux-fur lined boot. “It’s cold out there.” Jab with the boot. “It’s wet.” Jab.
The other boot is steadily inching its way off of my child’s foot, as her legs scissor madly back and forth. Thump thump thump. Her heel hits the carpet. She is free from the boot.
“I guess that means you want to take a time-out.”
I have substituted my earlier entries of logic with threats.
“No.” She lies on the floor. The glint in her eye tells me how proud she really is of herself. I wonder, then, when exactly it was that my toddler turned into a terror.
“Well, then, you’d better put your boots on.” I smile mechanically. Put the lunchbox on the floor. Move towards the child with the boot in my hand.
“No!” Her legs flap. It’s like trying to put a sweater on a cat.
“But, you can’t wear sandals! It’s snowing!” I kneel on the floor. Logical entreaties, then casual threats, and now, I am reduced to desperate pleas. Desperate pleas are a mistake. She sees the crack in my armor. She has wriggled her fingers inside and is prying open my sanity. It is leaking out like the grape juice she intentionally spilled onto the breakfast table 15 minutes ago.
My daughter leaps from the carpet like a baby gazelle and scurries under the table. She knows I cannot reach her there. I gave up trying after the last futile attempt to do so this morning, during which she successfully avoided getting her hair brushed.
My morning routine has been hijacked by this grape-juice stained, hair-in-a-rat’s-nest creature. The child I raised, that obliging, obedient, sweet child, is not who emerged from Elle’s bedroom this morning. The thing that emerged from Elle’s bedroom is a brat.
“You need to take a time-out,” I peer under the table at this brat-that-has-replaced-my-daughter. I don’t need to guess what comes next.
I’ve got to hand it to this Elle-lookalike: She is a cunning debater. When said in succession without any other dialogue, “NO” is a pretty impenetrable argument.
“OK, Elle.” I will not admit defeat. I take a breath. I need a new tactic…
“So, check out these shoes.” I dangle one of Elle’s Croc sandals under the table. “It has holes all over it. What do you think will happen if you walk outside in the snow wearing shoes that have holes all over them?”
It is silent under the table. Could I be gaining on her?
“Your socks will get wet! Then your feet will get wet! Then your feet will get cold! All day! Yes, your feet will be cold, all day.”
There, Elle-imposter. Cold feet – take that!
I am awash with relief. I have finally outwitted my daughter, with the old wet socks line of reasoning.
“Can I have my vitamins?”
Vitamins? What happened to the stupid sandals?
I cannot let this curve ball disrupt the headway I’ve made.
“You can have your vitamins if you come out from under the table and put your boots on.”
Miss Shoeless Rat’s Nest Head emerges from beneath the table, and effortlessly slips on the boots waiting for her.
“And you have to let me brush your hair,” I spit out with a flourish.
She looks up at me. Her eyes glitter mischievously.
Parents spend a lot of their time adrift on the tranquil seas of denial. From that lofty vantage point, their children are flawless. Unspoiled. Cooperative. Adorably lovable and wildly amusing.
Then a child wakes up on the wrong side of the bed one morning and all of those immaculate constructions come crashing down. And you are left sopping up spilled grape juice and allowing your kid to go to daycare looking like a vagabond.
At least she’s wearing appropriate footwear.