Sept. 30 2008 06:54 PM

Even a 3-year-old is questioning the big production


“Mama, what's razzle-dazzle?”

I had been shushing Ruby for well over an hour, and now the questions were flowing.

I was trying to make sense of the Maverick and his maneuvering with help from The Rachel Maddow Show and then Hardball after that. OK, so maybe I was blowing my kid off for closer to two hours, but who's going to know? I was indulging my obsession, and my child was obsessing. After exhausting every effort to get me to play the memory game (maybe later), do a puzzle (in a minute), build a jungle (go ask your daddy) and make fairies (how about you start and I'll join you in a while?), my kid began to rightly realize she was being stiff-armed.

In a last-ditch attempt to bring me back from the distance, she leaned in close, her round face and combed-out afro fully blocking my view of the tee-vee, and she let out a nearly disconsolate wail about wanting me to play with her.

Being the malleable and compassionate parent that I am, I looked at her and said, “You make a better door than window.” Then I placed my hands on her shoulders, scooted her out of my line of vision and said one of the many things that I, in my pre-parent days, swore I'd never utter to my hypothetical kid: “Not right now.” I waited as the tears pooled in her eyes with all the surface tension of an A-plus science-class experiment and added, “Honey, build a bridge,” which, in my home, is the innocuous code for Get over it.

I'd like to say I've trained her well and that she complied without resistance. But the truth is, I did the opposite of what the User Manual advises and offered a post-dinner trip to Yogurtland as a bargaining chip. Before I could say chocolate sprinkles, my babe stopped the spigot, snuggled up next to me on the couch and started watching Chris Matthews. Not two more minutes passed before she began pummeling me with questions: “What are markets? What's a bubble? What is burst? Bailout? What's bailout? Mama, what's razzle-dazzle?”

Yes, she's in that phase, and I'm learning patience.

I'm also learning that nothing illustrates solid comprehension of a concept like being able to explain it to another person. Extra super-duper bonus points with Rainbow Jimmies on top if you can break it down into toddler-speak, which, when it came to the pundit prattle, I simply couldn't; I was completely nonplussed. I've been trying for weeks to explain how she is, in fact, my sunshine. And my child insists that, in fact, I'm wrong because she doesn't have rays! Only with a Bush speechwriter could I possibly come close to describing how much the true elites in this country have royally fucked with her future.

But in all of this negotiation and conversation, I realized I was engaging in negotiation and conversation—with my daughter. Conversation and negotiation with a person born in 2005. Holy crap, people, this is a breakthrough! Not at all lost on me is the awareness that it's so much freaking better to have a 3-year-old than a 3-month-old.

I've never been particularly secretive about the struggles I endured when Ruby was a baby. For the record, and in case she decides to read this someday—which she won't, because who cares about what their mother has to say?—but in case she does: She was a good baby, a really good baby. An angel. Nevertheless, she was an angel in larval stage, and that larval stage was challenging. There were particularly dark times during which I felt my permanent departure would be best for everyone, most especially me.

During the many nights of pacing 'round and 'round the dining room table with a crying infant in my arms, or the nights spent sleeping in the garage, or mornings spent stifling sobs on the back patio, I couldn't imagine she would one day get herself out of bed, pad down the hallway to the bathroom and leave me a little present in the toilet.

Evolution is brilliant because she's even begun wiping her own butt. Not very thoroughly—I still have to participate in that and probably will for some time—but it's a far cry from crapping in a diaper.

Back then, I wanted to be free because I felt like I was going insane, and it was difficult to rationalize that things wouldn't always be that way. Even today, when I see people out and about with a baby, I always think one or more (usually more) of the following things: Poor suckers. Been there, done that. Better them than me. Sure am glad that's over.

I'm also glad I stuck around to work it out because this parenting gig is starting to get really good. “What's he doing, Mama?” Ruby asked, pointing to an awkward, rigid John McCain on the screen. The Maverick was blinking, his voice conspicuously detached, his gray skin in need of a mortician's attention. “Ever heard of the movie Weekend at Bernie's?” I asked back.

Despite the impression I may have painted up there in Paragraph 1 (and 2), I do spend plenty of one-on-one time with my child each day, undivided time that isn't forced with ploys of bribery or begging, but, rather, filled with unabashed liberal indoctrination. I use that time to answer her questions to the best of my ability. I teach her the important stuff she'll need to know when she's older, like respecting herself, questioning authority, remaining compassionate, keeping an open mind and, of course, how to recognize truth disguised beneath razzle-dazzle.    

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