Before I had kids, no one ever really tried to shock me. Sure, they’d try to surprise me with an astonishing story or an unexpected twist. Outside of sporadic pranks, though, no one ever zeroed in on me order to see a reaction.
That all changes when you have children. Suddenly, your presence is of the utmost importance. You become the captive audience for dances and dramatic reenactments. Even my son, who is non-verbal, will lead me by the hand to the living room couch where he expects me to sit and watch him…as he watches TV. When you become a parent, your attention goes from leisure to urgent in no time flat.
Of course, this newfound importance brings with it a myriad of new experiences. Not only do your kids try to get applause, they also like to see your face when they get one over on you. Your life becomes a Nickelodeon sitcom. Suddenly, you’re no longer Zack Morris. You’re now Mr. Belding.
For example – and prepare yourself because this is a weird one – I was getting Lucas ready to go to sleep. He was all dressed in pajamas as I turned to make sure his bed was ready. While removing the hundreds of toys that he gathered through the night, I could hear my daughter, who was about five at the time, giggling like a nutcase. It brought a smile to my face and, without turning around, I called out.
What’s so funny back there, Miss Olivia?
Through laughter, she replied.
I’m kissing Lucas’s butt!
I spun around to find my two year old son standing there with Olivia seated beside him. Oh, and yes. She was kissing his butt. My immediate reaction was confused panic.
Olivia! No! Stop doing that! Why are you doing that!?
Like a Disney villain, her face slowly morphed from jubilant smile to annoyed scowl. She stood deliberately and with purpose, all while holding me in her icy glare. I thought I had broken her as she silently left the room.
Obviously, I was concerned. Did I do something wrong? I rarely raise my voice but I hadn’t yelled too loudly. Is she scarred for life? Had I raised a wimpy kindergartener? Is she off weeping? Rather than chase her down, I continued putting Lucas to bed first and figured I’d find her when I left the room to make sure she wasn’t on the road to serial killing.
Instead of finding Olivia, she found me and handed me this:
With an envelope drawn on one side, the stick figures on the other had me a bit thrown. Before I could ask what it was, she began pointing to each one. She started with the tallest and worked her way around counterclockwise.
This is Lucas. This is me kissing his butt. This is you yelling.
She then patted me on the shoulder as if to say, “there ya go, buddy” and walked away.
That picture hangs above my nightstand now. It’s a reminder that my kid is not only tough, but passive aggressive in a way that we can all only hope to aspire to.
Her shocking behavior hasn’t been limited to our time alone either. A good example of this involves the day I learned that she stopped liking the movie Frozen. When she was small, Olivia was obsessed with it. She taught me all the songs word-for-word, collected the dolls, and was even one of a billion Elsas for Halloween.
Like kids often do, she outgrew this early interest. That’s not the big deal though. It was how she decided to tell me that will forever be one of the most awkward moments I can remember.
We were at Disney World.
Wait, it gets better. With an armful of ski-ball tickets, we stood at the counter of our hotel’s arcade. The “cast member” assisting us was super-cheerful as we tried to figure out what prize to get. Rather than remain silent and stare us down like they do at the scary Chuck E. Cheese by our house, this guy wanted to make conversation.
Wow. Look at those tickets. Are you having fun?
Oooo! It’s so much fun here. Let me ask you something.
He leaned in with a sly grin on his face.
Do you like Frozen?
There wasn’t even a one second pause. Olivia looked him in the eye and replied.
She then awkwardly turned her whole body towards me and moved her glare from his eyes to mine. The counter guy had pretty much done the same. I let out a bewildered chuckle as he tried to salvage this conversation with my newly Frozen hating daughter.
Really? You mean to tell me you don’t like Olaf?
Again and with more force this time. She answered.
At this point, he seemed to be annoyed at her willful act of Disney Disobedience and was unable to, ahem, let it go. I was still unsure why she was answering this way but also growing tired of the Mickey Mouse third degree. He then offered this piece of wisdom.
Well, then you must be the only little girl in this whole park who doesn’t.
What did my kid do? She shrugged her shoulders with total apathy while he shot me an amazed expression. I figured it was time to back her up and shut this thing down.
Guess she is. What prize do you want, Olivia?
She doesn’t remember a lot of things from her younger years, but she remembers that day very well. Sure, it was an attempt to get a reaction. However, it was also her bizarre kid-like way of telling me she had moved on from one of her childhood distractions. It must have been hard to express that, especially during an actual Disney vacation. Yet, she did and my reaction was one that showed her that there was nothing she could tell me that I wouldn’t support.
We’re everything to our kids. They yearn to make us laugh, cry, clap, or gasp. Sometimes they try to do them all at once. How you respond will shape who they are and how they share these emotions with the world. It’s a lot of pressure and it goes on forever. Good times.
She did it at 5, she’ll do it at 50, and I know a time will come when I yearn for the days when her biggest attempts to shock me revolved around stick figure drawings and singing snowmen.