Monday, February 23, 2009

Heck and Hell

I hate parent blogs. They're full of cuteness. And even though parenting is often an overload of cuteness it can also be terrifying and sometimes depressing as you do your best not to fuck up your kid while at the same time somehow managing to keep their ass alive and healthy (all the while failing daily). I mean, last night I'm reading this really interesting book that talks about social conditioning and the whole time I'm thinking, "Shitmaster! I already made half of these mistakes on Claire!"

But she's doing just fine. Better than fine, really. In fact, as far as I can tell, my kid is better than other kids - though I would never tell her this so I don't over-inflate her ego. Or wait. Should I actually try to over-inflate her ego so that when the world has its cruel way with her it'll all balance out? Man, I don't even know.

Anyway, today there were a couple of funny father/daughter moments that I will cherish for the rest of my days as an inept parent.

I pick her up from latchkey and notice her hat is nowhere in sight. This is bad because I've been cracking down on hat and glove usage: she hates wearing them and I tell her that she can thank her hatless ways for her nasty cough. At the same time I'm noticing the missing hat she screws herself by blurting out, "We went outside again after school!" I say, "You went outside and didn't wear your hat?" She says, "Yes, I did." I say, "Then where is it?" She says, "Back in my locker..." I say, "Then you couldn't have worn it outside, right?" She knows she's busted. "Right."

I've also been trying to crack down on the lying, which is happening more and more frequently. I know that kids are going to lie to their parents up and down. But still, I have to try, right? So I say, "Alright Claire, you're grounded from TV tonight for lying to me." She weeps in the car. She weeps at home. She's weeping for so long that I ask her to go in her room and weep there so I don't have to listen to it any longer. I say this really nice and add that it's okay for her to be upset and cry, but that I just can't stand hearing it any longer.

Eventually, I make her dinner and, since Kirst is out, suggest that we sit down and eat together and invite her doll Ellie to join us at Kirst's place. She stops crying immediately and starts bustling around setting the table for three. Her face is red and swollen but suddenly optimistic.

While we're eating the subject of school comes up. They're learning words that start with E this week. My usual joke when we go over her letter words is to say the longest ones I can think of, in this case stuff like "Effervescent." She'll say, "Ear," and I'll say, "Evisceration." She laughs at my joke, though I'm not sure why. Then I say, "Exclamation," and ask her if she knows what an exclamation mark is. I tell her it's something you put on the ends of sentences for emphasis. She says, "Like, 'What the hell!'"

I say, "What did you just say," really not sure if I heard her correctly. She looks at me without blinking and says, "Like, 'What the HELL!'"

I'm at a total loss. We've never had the swear word talk. How do I explain to her the arbitrariness of cuss words, about substituting one word for another nearly identical word out of deference to other people's sensibilities and the superstition of language. I say something like, "Claire, has nobody talked to you about how you're not supposed to say certain words?" She looks at me blankly and continues stuffing food in her face. "No," she says.

I have no energy for the conversation. Or at least for the speech I'm supposed to make. Instead, I try to level with her and explain as sincerely as I can that there are certain words that kids aren't supposed to say, and that she's going to hear adults say them all of the time, and there's no reason for these rules except maybe manners and she's going to have to learn the rules anyway and "hell" is one of those words and she's supposed to say "heck" instead. She says, "Okay" and continues polishing off her mac 'n' cheese.

Later, I'm in my office working on something and she comes in and hands me a handmade card. It's is scrawled in her phonetic chicken scratch:

i em sre theet i
lid too you
I love you


Kirsten said...

I'm so sorry I missed this. I would not have remained as pokerfaced as you.

ur a gud datty.

Joy said...

Awww with that letter it is obvious you are doing a great job. :D

Megan said...

gah! so adorable!

denherder said...

your awesome Dan!

carmenP said...

tears in my coffee, thanks a lot.
great short dan, you are awesome.

Salamander said...

Thanks. Now i'm tearing up at work.

Marie Lasferatu said...

Um, yea. That is wonderful.

denherder said...

Way too cute. I can't wait until she says "shitmaster" for the first time. What's the substitute for that??