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Sunday, December 21, 2008


That place, that well-spring of violence and condescension, of fevers, earaches, scratches, bruises, tears, blood, and No, God Please Don't Bring Any Juice, is, after all, not entirely evil.

Erin is actually learning some things in the daycare environment that are not pounded into her by older kids or grown from the seeds sown by her slightly-negligent father. She has learned how to put her baby doll down for a nap. And she has also learned how to save her dad some quarters at the laundromat.

Our first couple of weeks at daycare were Shakespearian tragedies starring Erin's accoutrements. The teachers refused to put bibs on the kids, and expected them to sit in their little tiny chairs at their little tiny tables with open cups of milk and bowls of yogurt, and like the asylum inmate confirming everyone's suspicions, they expected different results from the same actions every day.

And we washed. Erin went through two or three changes of clothes every day.

And while I was there during snack time to co-op each week Erin was standing up every two minutes to take a lap, trailing her yogurt spoon behind or dropping pieces of whole wheat (No God Please Don't Bring Anything with Eggs) bagels on the floor. It was utterly demoralizing to see that she just wasn't as polite or patient as some of the other kids. It had everything to do with me as a parent. I never enforced sitting down, staying still, not-wandering-off time at home and now everyone was paying the price because I sent a wild monkey to daycare. She was getting her first "F" in life, and it was at "Manners."

Now, though, as if to deliberately thumb their collective noses at all of those people who define insanity as "doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results", the daycare teachers have succeeded. Erin comes home now in the same outfit she was sent in. She sits through her entire snack. She drinks from open cups and wields her spoon with surgical dexterity. And her cute factor has increased exponentially.

"Mo' pease," she says. Or "mo' mik pease." And now that she is a fully developed little adult, tossing her mature requests about, I suddenly can't keep up.

I used to feel like she was changing and maturing no faster than I could adapt; that I was growing as a father as quickly as she was growing as a child. But now she's shifting gears. She is speeding up to take the green flag and I'm the pace car leaving the track after a couple of laps. (Cars has been on all day today. This post does not exist in a temporal or cultural vacuum. Disney owns part of my soul.)

I know I ought to be learning how to decline requests just as quickly as she is learning how to make them; that when she asks for her 80th oz of milk in the day that I should say no. But her casual "mo' pease" is like a tunnel under the fence: it breaches my defenses before I even realize I'm under siege. (I was also remembering my Caesar and Vercingetorix and you can bet the Romans are thankful that the Gauls didn't try using cuteness to break the Siege of Alesia.)

What makes it even more irresistible is that she signs her requests; she is more emotive and compelling when she puts her fingertips together for "more" and then swoops her hand around her chest for "please". I feel like I might be able to keep up, to fend her off, if she weren't also assaulting me with her cute little gestures.

And so she's been getting a lot of milk lately. Dad can't say no.

Today for some reason her language exploded again and she started putting even more polite requests together. "Mo' tota pease" when her grandmother called; "Mo' juice pease"; "Mo' piggy pease".

"Mo' kiss pease," just before bed as we were kissing her goodnight.

"Mo' kiss pease," and she urged us to delay the end of day.

"Mo' kiss pease," and her mother obliged over and over and over, like any sane person expecting the same result each time.

But Erin's daycare teachers have made us question what we know about sanity: Erin can drink from a cup and only wears one shirt each day. And she's outpacing her mother too.

"No mo' kiss. Night-night."

That's how you have to be when mom won't stop kissing you goodnight and just let you go to sleep already even though you're the one who started it. And that's how you get an "A++" in "Manners."


UrbanVox said...

now THAT is a lesson! :)

SciFi Dad said...

Very sweet. There's nothing like this time of language explosion (as compared to the vocabulary explosion you already experienced where she figured out how to identify a million things verbally), is there? Suddenly they've gone from pointing and saying nouns to composing thoughts, expressing ideas and opinions. It's such a rewarding time.

And then you realize they're going to figure out that they can disagree with you, and that the daughter of a lawyer and a philosophy major is going to be more than competent at arguing, and you know you're pretty much screwed.

Michelle said...

So cute! I can't resist the polite requests either. At least it's just milk and kisses for now. My daughter has been trying it out with cookies and saying "I'm sorry sweetheart, but the cookies are all done for today. But, thank you for being so polite." Just doesn't seem to cut it.

Danielle said...

So sweet!

They are completely irresistable with their little signs and their peases and their mo' kisses.


Ali said...

Isabella had learned to be such a polite, non-messy girl too. and it was totally NOT from me. her teachers at school get all the credit.(hey, at least i know my money's going somewhere. hahaha!)

ChurchPunkMom said...

little people with manners are disarmingly irresistible, that's for sure.

Pamela said...

It is OK if Disney owns a part of your soul, and if you can't refuse your child milk...

If your kid is polite and lovely, who cares?

There's nothing better than a polite child.

Redneck Mommy said...

Good God. This is the first thing I've read today and my damn uterus just exploded from the cuteness.

There's a lesson in that. Cute kids can not come before the morning coffee kicks in. Otherwise my brain will be deluged with memories of my own children's sweet moments and I will be convinced I need to breed again.


Swirl Girl said...

just when you think you have them all figured out - they go and grow up on you!

Anonymous said...

That's perfectly adorable. Wait until she says, "New car pease?!"

Jerri Ann said...

As a former daycare owner, chances are she did way better when you weren't around. Parents would bring kids in with declaration like 1. she won't drink milk if it doesn't have chocolate or strawberry in it, 2. she doesn't take naps at home and 3. she doesn't know how to sit at a table with just a chair.

And, inevitably as soon as mom was gone, we served breakfast with milk and no chocolate or strawberry and their baby drank it just fine. And, we served it at the table and sitting in chairs (although we did use sippies with lids) and the kid did just fine. And, then the real kick in the gut for most parents, we put down cots, pointed the child toward his/her cot and the child would go lay down and go to sleep. Period.

Mom would come in prepared for all kinds of horror stories about naps and milk, etc. Then, when we revealed the truth, they left with their jaw dragging. So, she probably does way more at school than for you and in this case, that means she might actually be asking for more at school than she does at home, hehehe.

Petra a.k.a The Wise (*Young*) Mommy said...

OMG, that is my favorite post of the day! Beautifully written and poignant and it made me laugh.

You win! (and you have that cutie pie to kiss and snuggle with, so you double win)

Twinsma said...

AAAAWWWWWW. That was so sweet that I almost got all horomonal on you. I get to blame it on being pregnant though. She is soooo adorable. I love that she's speaking so well. I hope you're getting this stuff on film so when she's a noisy teenager you can look back and say "See! I told you that you had manners at one point in time!".

Headless Mom said...

Enjoy the A++ stage. Soon it will be all eye-rolling and attitude. They get that from Disney too.

Merry Christmas, Friend!

Kat said...

Isn't this stage lovely! No more grunting and pointing. Of course my 2 year old is a heathen right now and has refused to say please for the last month without me prompting it.

Cindy and Co. said...

I love this stage too. And it never lasts. It is hard to say "No" now but that too is just a phase you are going through. She is your first and really really cute. It will pass.
I have found that my children will behave for total strangers better than they behave at home. It seems to be programed into them that no one else thinks their crap is cute so they better knock it off.

JayMonster said...

Just so you know, the cuteness and growing up factors are just starting and will accelerate in speed as time goes along. So just prepare yourself.

Shonda Little said...

My son is a little older than this, but he started a two-day-a-week Montessori pre-school this year. I've had him on the waiting list to get into the 3-year-old/4-year-old class since two months before he was born and the list was so long and there are so many legacies that he didn't get in until the day before school started. Anyways, I was really nervous when it started, as I am married to this rowdy rancher (his given name actually is Rowdy) who finds peeing off the front porch liberating) and didn't know just what my kid would teach his rather proper fellow students. However, they've turned him into a big boy. I've tried to teach him manners from day one, but for some reason, hearing it from his teachers is so much more effective. When we went to his Christmas party, my husband and I were just dumbfounded by these brilliant teachers and the way they keep 25 students following the rules and playing nicely. I told Rowdy that watching Mrs. Fryman control those children with the simple please and thank yous was like watching a group of people who actually hear the voice of God.

Heinous said...

That's an awesome post. It was such a great stage. It's long gone for us but it's great to live it again through someone else.

bejewell said...

I've gotta get my kid into day care now. Stat. I get no peases.

Sarah Yost said...

THAT is an awesome post.