~ Preamble ~
Tonight's story relates to one of my favorite times in human development. It's not a time of innocence but instead a time of learning and shaping. It is the time of childhood. This step in human development, especially when contrasted against the terrifying realities of events like the car crash I just heard outside my window (yes, I did stop writing so I could call the police and they responded very fast), is one that is worth protecting and traversing personal adversity to do so. I hope to protect Lisa from such events for as long as possible, and when I cannot be there then I hope she has enough presence, training and knowledge to care for herself , first, and others, second.
Tonight's story takes place in a car.
~ The Amble ~
Hey Lisa, guess what!
You're a Googoo Head!
The first shot has been fired in the Googoo war! Attack with tenacity!
No I'm not!
Yes you are. I Just talked to Mr. Cauliflower Head, and heee said that... you... are... a Googoo head.
Oh yeah? Well I'm gonna call Mr. Cauliflower right now.
Lisa picks up the nearest carrot and holds it to her ear. Her locks drape just above her brow, loosening from the barret, revealing a recent haircut. Her eyes are large and dark, impossibly adorable, and inlaid with equal parts mischief and giggle-dust. They lose themselves to her mind, reading the lines of the conversation she's in the middle of formulating. Googoo war has been declared and she will not yield so quickly.
Hello? Mr. Cauliflower?
a pause as she awaits his reply, motionless in mid breath
Oh my gosh!
She exhales quickly on the 'gosh.' Her eyes widen in surprise and though they are staring out, she is clearly focused inward. I love this part. Lisa manages affected false conversations on telephone carrots better than any four year old i know. I think she'll be a social girl as she grows up; if she avoids that end, it is still agreed that she will be a heartbreaker. Because of this, I sometimes find myself preparing conversations she and I will have as she realizes her eventual influence over boys. I am sad for the heart-broken boys whom she'll never acknowledge and worried about her heartbreaks for the times she does acknowledge a boy. But, these fears are premature by more than ten years so I am content to just watch her behavioral patterns, track how they change, catalogue their patterns and play silly games.
For now, she hangs up the carrot phone by dismissing it to gravity.
In the car, she sets inside voice to 11.
I make sure to match her energy level so I can keep her interest. This is an art form in a car ride with a four year old because time spent laughing is a reprieve from the alternate timeline of pouting, crying and the draining rollercoaster of her emotional instability.
Mr. Cauliflower AND Mr. Firetruck said that You're Googoo head!
Her laughter rises like giggles brought to a soft boil.
He did not.
Yes he did.
I'm in heaven at getting to be a child again, or at least act like one.
Yes he did. I just talked to him.
Oh... Well I guess that makes you a Googoo head then.
I learned that trick from Bugs Bunny: deflect, deny and change the game.
No it doesn't!
Yes it does.
I play it straight laced and deadpan, treating each reply as a serious statement. Imagine Presidential Obama debating Crazy Frog, where every outburst of 'Crazy Frog' is met with a stolid and collegial 'I see.'
Andrew? ...Plaintive now.
I thought bed was Googoo.
Is she worried about seriously being a googoo head? It's possible. But really she'd be more worried about the possibility of an insult or that I somehow don't respect her. Because I love and respect her and want only joy and peace for her, I concede.
So why'd you say I was Googoo?
Because it makes me laugh.
Honesty is important when answering direct questions.
And now that she's had enough time to rest and relax and parse this information, it's back on.
And because you are.
No I'm not!
Yes you are, Mr. Napkin Face said so!
Good ol' Mr. Napkin Face, my ace in the hole every time.
Mom! Andrew said I'm Googoo head. Tell him He's Googoo head!
Maybe you are Googoo head.
...she says. My girlfriend plays along well when the situation requires.
No I'm not mom.
She steers to the right, merging into the west-bound traffic.
Tickle me mommy! Tickle meeee!!!
She kicks her feet wildly in her chair as a momentary spasm erupts throughout her muscles. Her need for attention, love and escape from boredom drive her to this volatile outburst.
'Please mommy tickle me'?
My girlfriend is a master at the correction of behavior.
Okay. PLEASE mom, will you tickle me?
Is it safe to do that right now?
She is also the master of diffusing child bombs. Lisa's emotional rollercoaster avoids a high speed crash into the nadir of the downward slide. Her legs stop jostling and she regains some peace and clarity...
...and maybe a touch of sullenness.
...the clouds clear.
Still at 11 and everything else just got dissolved, shoved into the past or forgotten.
Did you know Mr. Cauliflower said that the Earth's name is...
she begins laughing, and i do too because i know what's coming
...did you know...
more laughing, her head rolls and bounces with each laugh.
...did you know the Earth's name is... Poopoo-Peepee?!
She doubles over now, laughing and gasping for breaths between giggles
She says again. This is one of her primo jokes and therefore needs to be repeated as much as is insanely and near inhumanly possible.
Her un-controllable giggling finishes the Googoo war, for now.
The Earth's name is Poopoo-Peepee!
She continues laughing as my girlfriend drives us into the garage. This drive home saw ne'er a meltdown or tantrum... this time. There is one last obstacle, and that's Mr. Seatbelt. Lisa, in all her budding wisdom and youthful approaches, still adheres to a practice of lettering others do for her even if she can provide for herself. The trials of Mr. Seatbelt are no different. "Lisa, put your seatbelt on." "But I don't know how!" which begets a meltdown of liquid salt pouring from red eyes and harsh brows. "Mommy! I want you to do my seatbelt. I don't know how!" She obviously does know how but its no use pointing out her misdirection. So, when possible, I like to leverage another trend of hers against the trend of needing others do things for her. It is amazing how strong the preservation of self identity can motivate even a child... aka, winning.
My girlfriend turns the car off.
I'm gonna beat you taking off my seatbelt!
It's so easy, and I'm so very grateful for that. I set the bait and she bites.
No you're not! I always beat you!
Not this time! Its my turn to win! You better watch out!
She furiously works the seatbelt somehow hoping that adding frenzy will expedite the outcome. It does not. But somehow, that darn seatbelt seems just too much for me and, once again, Lisa wins the seatbelt race. It is a small price to pay for winning the peace-of-mind game. Every once in a while though, either out of boredom or a desire to keep her glued to the game for as long as possible (because any game can quickly become boring if there's never the threat of losing), I happen to remove my seatbelt faster and proudly exclaim my victory. Lisa hates this, not because it diminishes her but because she lost. This makes her try doubly hard in future seatbelt races and I let her win for as long as she motivates herself. If I ever feel she's losing interest then I make it a close race, and if ever I feel she's too many times in a row then I finish first. So far, for her the fear of losing and the excitement of having fun and winning, is more important than being lazy. I can work with that.
I told you Andrew! I told you I was gonna win!
I was so close! I demand a recount! ... Next time Lisa. Next time I'm gonna win.
No you're not!
Would I throw a seatbelt race against a four year old, and promote a love of poopoo-peepee jokes to maintain domestic tranquility? Absolutely.
"Positive role-model status" - Achieved.
My work here is done.
PS. She also wins the race up the stairs to the front door... and the other one to take her shoes off first and put them in the shoe area before walking through the house.