Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What's Not to Like?

"You don't have to like it, you have to eat it." - Immortal words of wisdom from my dad, Dominic R. Mannato

We have reached Defcon 2. That's what the terrible two's should be called. Defcon 2. It's one step from Defcon 1, which as you may or may not know depending on the depth of your knowledge of 80's movie trivia, is World War Three. Global Thermonuclear style. No one wins. Right now, the enemy is fast approaching. Not only armed and ready, but armed and dangerous.

Penelope has made her intentions perfectly clear. A line in the sand is always being drawn. Her strategy is simple: please me, amuse me, appease me, or you're going to pay dearly. Now she's added another deadly weapon into her arsenal. Deadly because every time she says it, I feel the simmering disdain bubbling inside of me evaporating away a little bit of my soul. I find it a small miracle that I am able to maintain a calm demeanor, a smiling face, and a rational disposition for a vast majority of the time.

"No" is no longer the worst thing she says. It's too easy. It's too quick. No, she talks in sentences now. For the most part they are full, flowing, beautifully constructed sentences. Except for one. It's the one that makes my blood boil, my hair fall out, and my teeth grind: "I don't like that."

Have some potatoes, Penelope, they're good. "I don't like that."

I'll sing you a song. "I don't like that."

Rub her back to comfort her? "I don't like that."

Brush her teeth? Comb her hair? Wash her hands? "I don't like that I don't like that I don't like that."

Sometimes she'll give you a preemptive "I don't like that" before you even suggest anything. She'll see you coming out of the corner of her eye, spin and throw you an "I don't like that" without even blinking. What if I was about to offer her all the cookies she can eat? I guess we'll never know. It's even been the first thing she's said when she's seen me in the morning. Now there's a wake up call for you.

Imagine walking into your child's room one bright Saturday morning after hearing her angelic singing and giggling through the baby monitor. You chivalrously choose to give your wife a few extra minutes of sleep by going to get your child out of the crib, change her diaper, and get her ready for the day. The sun shines warmly and welcoming through the white horizontal blinds. You crack open the door, with a feeling of excitement and anticipation. "I can't wait to see my little girl," you think to yourself. You can barely contain your enthusiasm. It's almost too much to handle. You see her little head pop up and peek out of the crib as she hears the door creak open. You get a quick glance of her adorable, toothy grin before it suddenly turns into a sour-faced, furrowed-browed scowl. "I don't like that."

You don't like what, exactly? Waking up? Morning in general? Or just me, specifically? What don't you like, my little reason for living? The fact that I continue to exist? That I'm in your way? Or that I'm not your mother?

What is it, my little cherub from heaven? Please explain to me why I wake up before the roosters and schlep into the city to work 10 hours everyday in order to spend these 48 hours on the weekend with my family and the first words you choose to utter upon seeing me in the first minute of that first hour is "I don't like that."

I could say that to her. I'm sure as hell thinking it. But instead, I laugh it off, I brush it off, I endure the next 5-10 minutes of "I don't like that" until I get the response I want. I'm singing and laughing and telling funny stories and making funny faces. I'm previewing for her the fun activities of the day and reliving the memorable events of days past.

And finally, after exhausting every last arrow in my quiver, a breakthrough. She smiles. She laughs. She approvingly says, "Silly daddy." My sweet little enemy.

What's not to like?

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