“Hello, I’m Jessica!” my six year old announced brightly, appearing at my side. I glanced up from the computer dubiously, where I was frantically trying to wrap up some online bill pay. “You and your husband are here at our hotel for vacation for eleven days, aren’t you?” she crooned.
Oh, fuck, I thought. Some sort of imaginative game that I am expected to participate in. Those are the worst kind. “Jessica” went on to tell me all about our accommodations for our stay, the amenities offered, and ask me leading questions about our children and their preferences.
“Do you have a daughter?” she probed. “Mmm-hmmm.” I responded flatly, suppressing irritation that I could not remember my login name for the online tax portal website. When will I get organized? I was in no mood to play along, which was unfortunate for me, as my daughter carried on for the next ninety minutes as her alter-ego, Jessica, the hotel owner/waitress/travel planner extraordinaire. Her trademark line seemed to be, “I’ll do anything you want!,” a phrase that made me inwardly cringe each time she cheerfully repeated it.
Feeling like an asshole for being dismissive at the computer, I tried to make up for my lack of interest in her game by playing along to the best of my ability throughout dinner. “Did Jessica make the spaghetti and meatballs?” I inquired pleasantly. “I already told you she did,” Izzy answered impatiently. She followed that up with a hasty, “Pretend I didn’t just say that,” and my husband and I lost what was left of our composure. I could not stop laughing, even though it was more inappropriate than giggling in church, given that the notion of crushing my daughter’s spirit is right up there on my list of things to think about when I am feeling masochistic.
I mean, don’t you remember being a kid, and being so consumed by getting into character that you would utter those disclaimers? “Pretend I didn’t say that,” or “Pretend you already knew that I had special powers.” Too painful for words. Don’t misunderstand- I am over the moon that my oldest child has such a brilliant imagination. I just prefer to observe from a safe distance, as I have a hard time feigning excitement about another pretend vacation/recital/restaurant…you get the picture.
Over the weekend it was a parade. Here’s the problem: Mini-Me is just like Mommy, in that she prefers things to go exactly as she had planned. What a heinous personality trait, one that I would have suggested she passed on, had I been consulted. When you are attempting to wrangle a 15 month old with little impulse control to be your side-kick in such a production, what could possibly go wrong?
By the time the parade actually started, I was irritable and frustrated, having already raised my voice a handful of times to remind Izzy that Sophie was simply not going to cooperate with her plans. Izzy had become huffy and borderline belligerent as her sister tore through the parade supply box, and Sophie was screeching with indignation as her big sister snatched the props out of her tiny, determined fists. Having reached the end of our ropes, the good husband and I finally insisted it was now or never, as we had to get to the grocery store. (And here I go again- taking the whole damn family shopping with me. Have I learned nothing? I would hyperlink my “Grocery Store/Day Spa” post, but alas, the archives won’t arrive for several more weeks.)
Sitting down with my coffee, a necessity for surviving such productions, I waited for the sullen parademaster to appear. We applauded wildly when she entered the room, only to be silenced by her complaints that the music we had selected on Pandora was not appropriate for the parade. She then scowled as Sophie dragged more costumes out of the staging area. Other highlights included the part where Izzy threw candy that we had hidden leftover from her stocking, and her eager young sister ran to snatch them up, spoiling her plans and causing more whining. Great. Parade.
Then there were several costume changes- Izzy appeared first as an Olympic athlete sporting a medal around her neck, then as a Broncos fan, and finished up by stuffing her ballet leotard over her nightgown. Apparently spontaneous ballet performances are all the rage on the parade circuit these days.
I realized after Izzy’s 24th lap around the living room that I have become my father. While the parade may have been endearing and whimsical on some level, along with “Jessica’s” appearance at dinner, I find I am mostly impatient for the activity to end, much as he was during my own childhood theatrical escapades. Does that mean my soul has died or something? Like Ally Sheedy says in the Breakfast Club? Can I no longer hear the bell in the Polar Express? Am I just a grumpy, grown-up dickhead? I understand now the delicate balance of finding your child to be adorable and entertaining, and just wanting to get on with your day- to finish paying your quarterly taxes in peace, to get the hell out of the house and over to Target before you get too close to the naptime crunch- without disruptions.
Much like Izzy’s Restaurant and the stocking stuffer activities, (I swear I will come back and hyperlink those posts next month) I am well aware that I will miss the parades someday. I know I will look back fondly at my eager hotel hostess who half-heartedly made our beds and laid out slippers for me (Oh God, now I just feel like crying!) to further embellish her charade. As for now, I will try to rise above the sinking sensation I get when presented with another “nuisance” and try my damnedest to play along.
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