Friday, January 02, 2009

Manipulating children since 2002

My daughter Chase is 17 months old, which is an age I personally love, because you can get kids that age to answer questions they don't fully understand. That's 90 percent of why I wanted children in the first place.

Case in point: Several nights ago I realized that Chase has become such a daddy's girl that, when given the choice of "mommy" or "daddy" in any given situation, she will choose daddy. At first my feelings were a little hurt, but soon enough I found a bright side. Chase, her brother Jake, my husband Brian and I were hanging out at the house, and it was almost time for the kids to go to bed.

Me: Chase, who do you want to read you a bedtime story tonight, mommy or daddy?
Chase: Da-dee!
(Brian beams, clearly happy to be the favorite.)

Me: Chase, who do love more, mommy or daddy?
Chase: Da-dee!
(Brian sits there, looking smug.)

Me: If one of your parents were to die in a fire, would you rather it be mommy or daddy?
Chase: Da-dee!
(Brian looks as if he's about to object, but I quickly fire off another question.)

Me: Who would you rather see get intestinal cancer, mommy or daddy?
Chase: Da-dee!

Me: In the event of a divorce, who would you rather see only one weekend a month and two weeks during the summers, mommy or daddy?
Chase: Da-dee!

Me: If the judge called you to the stand and asked you to tell him who had given you that bruise on your arm, would you tell him "mommy" or "daddy?"
Chase: Da-dee!

I find this line of questioning to be so entertaining that I spend inordinate chunks of my day dreaming up new questions to ask her that would result in a humorous payoff in the event of the inevitable answer "daddy." If you can think of any to add to my list, please submit now. Hurry, she's about to wake up from her nap and I want to be ready.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I thank you, and my liver thanks you

Last night we hired a sitter. This is a crazy concept in our household, because we are incredibly cheap people who believe money should be spent wisely on things like booze and plastic surgery, not frittered away on babysitters. Luckily for us, Brian's parents live nearby and cheerfully watch our children free of charge almost any time we need them to, and as far as we know they don't even molest or abuse them--not that those would be deal breakers at the low price of "free."

But last night they were off watching some boring football game in Austin, and because there is no bartender in my house to make martinis for me, we were forced to actually open our wallets and hire a sitter so that we could go to a bar. Actually, we wanted to attend a surprise 30th birthday party for a friend of ours at a bar in downtown Fort Worth, which meant we couldn't use our standard Plan B.

Plan A, of course, is using the free babysitting services of Brian's parents. Plan B is hiring a random, reasonably-responsible 16-year old to come to our house after the kids have gone to bed at 8, and get paid to watch TV and see that the house doesn't burn down until we get home--which means, of course, that we can't go out til 8ish--usually not a problem. Plan C, used last night for the first time, involves a little more thinking, since it requires finding someone to come to the house when the kids are still awake so that we can get to our destination at a certain time.

Jake, the 3-year-old, is an agreeable and easy child who would be fine with literally anyone coming over to play with him for an hour and then put him to bed. 16-month-old Chase, on the other hand, is the wild card in any situation. She sometimes likes a person upon meeting them for the first time, hovering at knee-level and grinning maniacally at them until they pick her up. Other times she will lay eyes on a new person and run immediately to throw her arms around my legs, casting furtive glances over her shoulder every few seconds to make sure they're not pulling a baby-chopping axe out of their back pocket and leaping at her. Other times she likes a person well enough while I'm in the room, but as soon as I step out she begins screeching like a badger caught in a trap, stopping only upon my return. I'm not sure what makes her so different from the agreeable Jake, but I can only assume my husband's DNA is somehow to blame.

We picked someone Chase knows and loves, the chick who runs the kid's club at my gym. Chase spends a couple of hours a day with her three times a week when I teach there, so she's totally used to her, and we love her as well. She showed up at 7, as requested, and allowed Jake to drag her from room to room for thirty minutes as he performed the very important task of showing her every single thing in our house. "This is the wivving room!" "This is the dime-ing room!" "This is Cow!" "We have three TVs [pronounced "tee-dees"]--one in the bedwoom, one in the wivving room, one in the pway room!" The kind of stuff that little kids find fascinating, and that make most adults want to wrench little kids' necks. Chase followed behind happily.

We left with only about half an hour or so til bedtime, went to our soiree, drank and ate and socialized with grownups, which is not something we're used to--but it was nice. Not once did any of them demand that we do a "puzzo" with them, or burst into frustrated tears at their inability to put on a discarded pair of our shoes, nor did any of them try to put their hands in the toilet or eat something found in the trash. So it was an unusual but enjoyable evening.
We got home at around 10:30 to find Chase still awake; in a good enough mood, but exhausted. The sitter had tried several times to put her to bed after reading a book in the rocking chair, but Chase stood in her crib and wailed hysterically each time til the sitter was forced to finally give up and just let her stay awake. Naturally, when I took her into her room and sat with her in the rocking chair for a minute, then put her into her crib, she rolled peacefully over onto her belly, hiked her diapered butt into the air and went to sleep willingly. Why couldn't she have done that for the sitter? My guess is she was trying to appear so completely unable to function without my presence that I would be touched by her sweet neediness and vow to give in to her every whim from now until the end of my life. However, the child overestimates me. In truth, my reaction will be the opposite: I've got to get rid of this kid now before her neediness further cuts into my drinking time.
Who wants her? Leave your name here, and I will consider all applicants before finally sending her to whichever one of you is closest, to cut down on shipping costs. Hurry, because there's a party I want to go to next Saturday.