Two short stories. Here’s the first.
Sunday night, as kickoff time for the (highly disappointing) Cowboys game approached, T–‘s mom was trying to get AB psyched up for the game. (She needn’t have bothered — as soon as the pregame footage started and they showed a quick pan past Romo, AB screamed at the top of her lungs, in sheer excitement, “That’s Tony!”) Anyway, Karla offered to teach AB a football cheer. AB accepted the offer with bemused enthusiasm.
So Karla said, with appropriate vigor, “Move to the left! Move to the right! Stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight!”
AB cocked her head to the side for a moment, thinking, then brightened and said, “You wanna fight me?”
It caught us off-guard, but it shouldn’t have. She’d been saying that all weekend to her Papa. Seemingly every time he stood up she’d back to the far end of the room (right in front of the TV), stand facing him, stomp each of her feet once, and say, “Hey Papa! You wanna fight? I’m gonna knock you down!” It was entirely adorable.
She did that again Monday morning while I was getting ready for work, and I looked at her and said, “Annabelle, where did you learn about knocking people down? Was that on Word World or Dinosaur Train?” Those are two of her favorite shows, and most of the time when she comes up with something outlandish, it’s something she picked up from one of her shows (like this weird interest in eating celery).
Karla imagined that AB was about to lose some of her TV privileges, so she said ominously, “You better think carefully before you answer that question.”
But AB just shook her head, confused by the question. I thought about it some more as I continued getting ready, then at some point I stepped into the living room, my eyes fell on my laptop, and I said, “Oh.”
See…AB likes to watch me play WoW. It’s a game where I spend hours at a time slaughtering people and monsters of all shapes and sizes — many of them recognizable. There are these undead spider monsters that AB always recognizes as needing an exterminating, so she cheers when I knock them down. She gets a little frustrated when she catches me knocking down the polar bears, though. She likes polar bears.
That’s the expression we use when she’s watching, though. When she asks why I’m running quests, I tell her I’m doing a favor for that guy over there. When she asks what I’m doing now, I tell her these monsters scared somebody so I’m knocking them down so they’ll go away. We fight, I knock them down, and that’s pretty much the whole game.
So she adopted that. She wanted to play it in real life with her Papa. Once I knew what she was thinking of, I agreed to play it with her for a little while. We fought, and I knocked her down a time or two. Then she said, “Okay, now I get to knock you down.” So we fought again, I took a dive, and she jumped up, hands high in the air, and shouted, “I did it! I did it! I won!” Three or four takedowns later, she was still just as exuberant about it.
Then I took a moment to talk with her about the difference between pretend fighting, and expressed that it’s only okay to knock people down when they’re willing participants. I think she got it. I’ve never seen her actually pick a fight, just ask her Papa to play in one. Still, she’s got to be careful who she issues that challenge to, because it’s not at all meek. “Hey, you wanna fight? I’m gonna knock you down!”
And here’s the second.
We had a long night last night, with baby Alexander waking up several times and screaming before, during, and after his feeding. Naturally T– caught the worst of that, but I didn’t get a lot of sleep, either. At one point (around 2:30), T– was feeding him when AB started yelling from the other room, so I went and took care of her before crawling miserably back into bed.
Then at 7:00 the alarm went off, unconcerned with our pathetic night’s sleep, so I crawled miserably out of bed and got ready for work. Before I left, though, T– was feeding Alexander again, and we heard AB yelling from her room.
She’s got a childproof lock on her bedroom door so she can’t get out in the morning. These days she doesn’t even try — she just sits in the middle of her bed and yells until someone comes and gets her. I knew T– would be tied up for a while, so I went to talk with AB before leaving for work.
As soon as I walked in the door she pointed to the window, where a tiny gap in the blinds gave view to the gray dawn outside, and said, “It’s not dark anymore, Daddy. It’s not dark anymore.”
We taught her that she has to go to sleep when it’s dark outside, so she takes the reverse of that as a solid, legal defense. I came and sat down on the edge of the bed with her and after a few failed attempts to convince her she was still tired, I said, “Annabelle, I know you want to get up, but there’s nobody to watch you right now, so it’s not safe for you to leave your room. If you want, I can turn on the light and you can play with your toys in here, or you can read some of your books, but you can’t go in the other room.”
That’s not the first time we’ve had that conversation. I waited patiently for her answer, and after a moment she shook her head. “But I want to watch something on Mommy’s computer.”
Half of the shows she watches are on the TiVo, and the other half are free videos on the Nick Jr. website. We usually keep T–‘s laptop over in one corner of the living room, and when T– isn’t using it (or we need the TV), we’ll often set AB up in front of the laptop and let her watch those videos.
I let my head fall back against the wall. I was exhausted, and just didn’t have the energy to fight with her. I stood up, took a step toward the bedroom door, then sank back down at the foot of her bed — trying to decide between making my daughter scream with frustration, and being a little bit late for work.
AB looked at me there on the foot of her bed, and she pointed past me. “You need to get the brown chair.”
I looked, and she has a little wooden chair that’s usually over by her bedside table, where she sits when she’s reading or playing tea party. I smiled and shook my head. “That’s too little for me.” She just looked confused.
After another moment’s hesitation, I decided to just be late for work. I stood up and headed toward the bedroom door, expecting her to follow right on my heels. She didn’t. She stayed in bed, but as I got out the door she yelled, all frantic, “Daddy, wait!”
I went back, and as I stepped into her room she climbed down out of bed and pushed a bunch of the toys on her table out of the way, clearing a space. Then she looked back over her shoulder at me, and said, “You have to get the brown chair first.”
She wanted a space at her table, so I could bring T–‘s laptop in there. She was willing to stay in her room, she just wanted to watch videos while she did it. A perfect compromise. We’d done that once before, months ago, but I’d forgotten all about it.
She’s an amazing little girl.