There's a phrase being thrown around our house lately that's been irking me: "no dada." Olivia has been using this to convey things like "don't sit next to me," "I don't want you to put me to bed" and "when will mama finally come to her senses, divorce you and find a better husband and father for us?" Either I'm imagining things, or I've quickly become the bad guy and need to figure out how to get back in my child's good graces.
Much of this stems from trying to discipline and guide her behavior. I'm supposed to help shape her into a functioning member of society who knows right from wrong, who all the members of the Avengers are and how to throw a dragon punch in a game of Street Fighter. Right now my main focus is trying to teach her not to hit or bite people, to wash her hands before meals and brush her teeth twice a day (amongst other things). What they don't tell you about in your child's instruction manual is that they won't want to do those things, they don't understand their importance and will do anything they can to avoid doing them. Then once you finally do get your child to do something like brush her teeth, there will be times when she'll either want to hit you with the brush or try and clean the toilet before putting it back in her mouth. Good times.
I'll admit, I'm being a bit sensitive about her disdain for me. I know I'm not supposed to be her friend, or even someone she wants to share her goldfish crackers with, but that doesn't make it sting any less. Plus I paid for those crackers so she can share, dammit. She's lucky I don't buy a truckload, fill up a pool with them and make her watch while I swim in it like Scrooge McDuck does with his money. Then, and only then, would she have my permission to curse every single one of me kilts.
Let's face it though, she's all cute and cuddly at this age. And while my instinct as a man is to avoid even writing those words, let alone value them, I can't help but feel that way about my child. I want her to snuggle up next to me on the couch while we catch up on the last episode of American Horror Story that she missed. I want to carry her around on my shoulders so she can take in more of the world around her. I want her to nap on my chest...hell, I just want her to nap in general. But, unfortunately, she doesn't always feel the same way about me, and why should she? I'm nowhere near as cute as she is, I'm too heavy to sit on her shoulders and I put her in time outs for being bad. I'm ruthless, I tell you. You could not possibly have any less ruth than me. Seriously.
Things have gotten so bad lately that when I go to pick her up from daycare and she sees me, she immediately starts yelling "no dada!" and tries to run away. The daycare workers have to bribe her with cookies just to get her coat on, and then she completely melts down once they pass her over to me. Sometimes she cries the entire walk home, kicking and screaming (but still clutching the cookies, I might add), and other times it's over before we even leave the driveway of daycare. She eventually calms down, but then it's right back to her hating me when I try to get her to eat dinner. She kicks and lurches as I try to put her in her highchair, then once she's strapped in she bucks and rocks the chair as if tipping herself over will convince me she doesn't need to eat. I have to time putting food in front of her just right, or else she just slaps it away, and then I have to distract/entertain her enough so she forgets she's mad and tries the food in front of her. Lately I've been turning the oven hood fan on high and pretending it's blowing me backwards (because physical comedy works much better on her than political satire). I grab the countertop, throw a leg up in the air and eventually fight my way up to the controls to turn it off. She giggles, takes a bite of her food, and then points at me to do it all over again. And, like a court jester worried about keeping his head another day, I play the fool and do it all over again for her. The things one does for their child.
We recently had a "no dada" experience when pushing her in a stroller, and I decided to try a different approach. Instead of just ignoring her, I decided to say "yes dada" back. She continued on, and I rebuked her every time. After about five rounds of this, I switched it up and said "no dada" to her, foolishly thinking I could trick her using the Bugs Bunny duck season/wabbit season method of reverse psychology. Not only did this not work, but I wound up with a face full of buckshot and my lips were on the backside of my head. You have no idea how painful it is to reposition your lips after such a traumatic experience.
I think what sucks for me right now is that I feel like I'm almost always the bad guy these days. Jodi rarely gets the "no mama" treatment, and it seems like we're stuck in this situation for a while. Disciplining a child is hard work, and even though she's a toddler I still feel bad for making her dislike me this much. I know that this is just a small slice of what's eventually going to happen, and for now I should be grateful it's just "no dada" and not "I hate you," "I wish you weren't my dad" or "I'm going to elope with this guy you absolutely hate and move to another country and there's nothing you can do about it." I need to toughen up, remain consistent and remember to enjoy the ride. Future me is going to get a good laugh at all of this and think about how much easier this was compared to something worse like her staying out after curfew, drinking alcohol before she's of legal age or her kicking my ass in Street Fighter. Dear lord, what have I done to myself?