Monday, September 11th, 2006
Using Multiple Personalities as a Child Management Tool
I developed a split personality about the time my daughter turned two-years-old. My other self is Zeebot. I am a robot.
The second personality first emerged spontaneously at the dinner table. If I had given the matter some prior thought I might have named him Shazbot. My Little Miss was refusing to eat some highly nutritious vegetables when Zeebot commandeered my body. Zeebot talks in a robotic voice. He moves stiffly and there is a lot about the world he doesn’t understand.
He asked the little girl, or as he calls her, "Daughter-Unit," about the food on her plate. He even ate some of it using his C-shaped pincher claws. She was initially resistant, saying, "You are not Zeebot. You are Papa," as she shared confused glances with Mother-Unit. Eventually she completed her meal with Zeebot’s encouragement.
At first, Zeebot would reemerge from time to time when Daughter-Unit was refusing to do something Mom or Papa had requested. Sometimes he asked leading questions under the guise of trying to understand Daughter-Unit’s fussy behavior. Other times, Zeebot took over the task Mother-Unit was attempting to accomplish in a classic good cop, bad cop scenario.
I suppose my daughter likes Zeebot because he doesn’t have to enforce rules like Mom and Papa. He is a friendly and inquisitive mechanism for nudging Daughter-Unit into what she needs to do, such as heed her nap time.
But lately, this dissociative identity disorder has been reoccurring on a daily basis. Zeebot appears for my own fun, or because Daughter-Unit requests him by saying, "You are not Papa. You are Zeebot."
The robot is now the only one allowed to brush Daughter-Unit’s teeth at bedtime. He sometimes even beats out Mother-Unit as the preferred reader of bedtime stories.
You haven’t truly heard a recitation of the repetitious Wheels on the Bus book-of-the-song until you’ve heard Zeebot read it. Because he is a robot, he is efficient in all tasks. He reported the words instead of singing them while cutting out reoccurring sentences, and he performed none of the hand movements associated with the song. Zeebot finished the book in one-tenth the time it would take a human.
Sure, speed is not the point of a bedtime story, but sometimes Zeebot’s ways and vocabulary also serve to amuse exhausted parents at the end of a long day. And besides, that was the one and only time Zeebot has been asked to sing.
At 27-months-old, even Daughter-Unit pretends to be Zeebot on occassion, putting a laundry basket or paper bag over her head and announcing, "I am Zeebot!"