Thursday, April 24th, 2008
The Joy of Fooling your Kids
What is happening in this photo?
My 3-year-old daughter is writing with her toes because they’ve been newly stretched to perform as fingers.
This is a short story about the joy of pulling one over on your kids.
Yesterday I was walking through our living room when I announced, "Somebody needs to be tickled!"
My Little Miss responded: "No, we’re all sitting and people who are sitting can’t be tickled."
I expected a response such as that. We have a house rule: no tickling family members unless they try to mix their salad using their fingers instead of a fork. But I like to challenge her with a tickling threat now and then. This time I let her be with her mother.
My wife then continued conversing with Little Miss.
"But it really does look like you want to be tickled."
"Well, if you’re not in the mood for tickling, maybe you’re in the mood for ponytail tugging."
"What about tummy poking?"
"What about toe pulling?"
"No, that might hurt!"
"No, you don’t pull toes to hurt. You pull toes to make them longer."
"Why would anybody want longer toes?" (shrugging shoulders)
"Well, if you had longer toes, you could use them like fingers. Come on over and I’ll pull your toes for you and we’ll stretch them out."
"Okay, if you want me to, I’ll come over there."
She sat down and removed a sock. My wife starting pulling the big toe in a massaging fashion. Then the toe popped unintentionally (like popping your knuckles).
"Well, that one’s longer."
Then she pulled the second toe and said, "Look, now your second toe is even longer than your big toe." (It’s technically true; my daughter inherited my weird toes.)
My wife proceeded to stretch the remaining toes on the right foot â€” because my daughter is right-handed. Then my daughter put her feet together to compare her long toes with her unstretched short toes.
"Well, what do we do now?"
"We need to see if your toes are long enough. Go grab a crayon."
"No, I want to use a marker."
"A marker might be a little big for toe fingers."
Our daughter could not be swayed, so she grabbed a marker and a piece of paper. She used her hand to steady the awkwardness of writing with her foot while sitting on the floor.
After a bit, I explained that Mama was being goofy and her toes were normal length. My daughter looked back and forth between me and her mother a few times before she realized we were "being goofy."
I should explain at this point that I routinely tease my daughter with fictional stories and far-fetched explanations for things. She’s just not accustomed to her mother giving her the treatment.
At age 2, my joking would sometimes bother her and boil her over into getting upset if I didn’t gauge her reaction carefully enough.
Now at almost 4-years-old, she "gets me" a lot better than many adults do. A wry smile is all that’s needed to let her know we’re just having fun.
Here are some recent examples:
One morning, she was going to have instant oatmeal for breakfast, but all of her toddler bowls were in the dishwasher. I showed her our cupboard devoid of bowls and explained that we would have to pour the hot water directly into the paper oatmeal packet. She yelled, "No!" and pulled the packet away. We then debated the merits of my idea.
For the past two weeks, when brushing her teeth every evening, I’ve attempted to convince her that her pink toothbrush is actually red. "My, what a fine red toothbrush you have," I’ll say, and so forth. Two nights ago I coated two-thirds of the toothbrush (the part that doesn’t go in her mouth) with ink from a red Sharpie pen and let her find it the next day. I denied everything. A little later she sought me out in the house to show me that she had washed most of the red off with her toy sponge… and then she had the audacity to question my integrity.
My daughter’s latest thing is to recall a major event from a year or two ago, such as watching Fourth of July fireworks or dressing up for Halloween. She’ll ask one of us, "Do you remember when…" This particular time she asked, "Do you remember when we took a train to Reno?" and my wife responded, "Yes, do you remember when we took the airplane to Hawaii and flew over the volcano?" Note: We’ve never visited Hawaii and she has never flown in a plane. My daughter responded, without batting an eye, "No, but do you remember the day space monkeys flew down to our house and tried to steal all of our bananas?"
A few months ago I had told her an elaborate story about space monkeys. So it was intriguing to see that she recognized my wife’s preposterous ploy and responded with one of her own.
It seems my Little Miss is getting sophisticated, forcing me to work harder to pull her leg.
Last night she bested me. At bedtime, I announced, "Whoever gets to your bed first gets to sleep in it tonight!" We then raced to her bedroom, with me trying to hog the hallway so she couldn’t get past me. It’s our nightly ritual.
This time, she snuck ahead of me and bolted, so I turned around, ducked into our kitchen and hid. I needed to trick her into leaving her room so I could dash inside and claim victory. So I slammed the door to my home office and quietly returned to the kitchen. I whispered to my wife, "Tell her to come get me out of the office." Try as we did, my daughter wouldn’t leave her room. Instead, she casually yelled, "Papa, why are you in the kitchen?" Her voice was dripping with amusement.
That’s my daughter.