Wednesday, April 21, 2010


In Which We Count to Three...

Can’t believe I was doing this three years ago today.

Three years! How quick was that?

That fragmentary video from 2007 also celebrates the Eclair’s third birthday—her third hour, I mean. The clip is a favorite of the Eclair’s—right up there with Elmo’s Alphabet Rap and that wedding video on YouTube. She doesn’t quite believe that the little, red, slightly cross-eyed newborn is her, understand. She just likes it because Daddy calls himself “insane.” It’s her new favorite word. Everyday, when I get home, she comes pounding across the floor to greet me, always with a cry of “Dadeeeeeeee!” after which she steps back, looks at me appraisingly and says, “Dad, you’re insane!”

As of course I am, but only in the most delightfully demented way.

You would be too, if you were in the clutches of the planet’s most willful toddler. I don’t think the world quite realizes what a debt it owes to the benevolent influence of Her Lovely Self, and, in particular, my own susceptibility to mental domination. I’m telling you, were it not for me, and the fact that the Eclair seems content (for now) to control my every move, my youngest child would have long since become master of the globe.

This is because the Eclair was born with a natural resistance to discipline. Or to be more accurate, she recognizes her parents’ efforts at discipline as an opportunity to control us. Take potty training. She is, I’m convinced, in complete command of her bladder and intestines, but won’t acknowledge this fact. Instead, it’s another weapon in her arsenal. The other night, we had a disagreement over bedtime. She thought 9 o’clock was a reasonable hour to retire. I crazily believed that 7:30 was more appropriate. So when I overrode her will and physically carried her up to bed, she briefly tried kicking and screaming, but when that failed, she settled down on my hip, hugged me close, and peed on me.

We have also waged a long and bitter battle, the War of the Right Thumb, which she has been sucking since before she could sit up.


It used to be a comfort thing, but now, like her bladder, her right thumb (never the left) is a biological weapon she wields to dominate us. We have tried every preventive measure, short of scissoring the thing off, to break her of this habit, but she will not budge.


She doesn’t even care that, as a result of thumb-sucking, her two front teeth have grown slightly outward. It’s correctible, but in the mean time it has contributed to a not uncommon speech impediment. All her th’s come out as f’s or fr’s. All her k’s come out as t’s. This bothers Her Lovely Self and me more than it does her—and she knows it.

The Eclair also seems to understand something her mother and I have realized too late: We’ve become soft. The iron hand we wielded in raising Thomas and the Brownie has rusted. We go easy on her. We’ve fallen into the trap many unwitting parents step into: On some level, we know that our days of caring for babies are coming to an end. She’s the last and when she’s gone there will be none left, and so we let her get away with murder.

The murder in question would be the murder of my in-laws, whose heads explode at the idea that we’re raising a granddaughter in this fashion. They tell us this at every opportunity and are full of advice, which they seem compelled to give, based on their success rate of having raised three daughters with perfect teeth and tightly wound sphincters (too tightly wound, if you ask me, but never mind). Advice is their specialty. Endless advice. Enforcement, not so much. That falls to us. And we’ve dropped the ball.

But for today anyway, I can’t let myself be bothered by it. This morning, as I was getting dressed for work, I heard the Eclair stir to life in the other room. Most mornings, she calls out simple declarative statements, carefully calculated to let me know she’s got my number. “I might be going potty right now!” she cries. “Dad, I’m sucting my fumb!” she yells. Other days, she just announces her needs. “I need breffast! I need a glass of milt!”

But this morning, she said something different.

“Daddy! Daddy, please come get me!”

The Eclair only ever says “please” to the dog and to her big sister (whom she worships, and occasionally even listens to), and I thought she must be in trouble. I pictured her strangling in her bedclothes, her head stuck in the slats of the crib. In panic moments, I imagine she’s still the teensy little red-faced, slightly cross-eyed infant, and so I ran to her. It’s what I do: I drop what I’m doing to attend her, a middle-aged man, hopelessly trapped, forever under her moist little thumb.

I opened the door to her room and there she was standing, thumb cocked to one side in her mouth, staring at the door, waiting for me to poke my head in.

“Dad!” she cried, as if she hadn’t seen me in a year. “Today is my birfday!” Then she took the thumb out and started clapping. “Yay me!” she cried.

I picked her up and she hugged me close (without peeing on me). Then she held my face in her little hands and stared very seriously into my eyes.

“Know how old I am?” she asked. “Know how old?”

“I know,” I answered. “You’re three today!”

“YES!” She shouted in my face. “I’m free! Free! FREEEEEEEE!” Then she recovered herself and gave me an appraising look. “Dad, you’re insane,” she said.

But as I carried her downstairs, her head nestled on my shoulder, I realized that, while I may indeed be insane, I’m not trapped at all.

In fact, I, too, am free.


Happy birthday, baby.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

How adorable. I loved the "I'm sucting my fumb!" line on a number of levels. I can actually hear a little kid saying it just that way, and it adds the hint of manipulation that you mentioned earlier.

As the father of a 14-year old daughter, I can tell you your fun is only beginning. Just wait till she's saying, "Dad! I'm dating a guy with a mustache and a van!"

Insane indeed.
Good Lord, she is cute! You're going to have to invest in heavy sticks, in about 11 or 12 years, to beat back the adolescent suitors. Maybe bear traps; less work overall.

Happy Birfday, She Who Is Free!
Love, love, love this.

(And if you have advice on overcoming the stubborn willfulness potty-training woes, I'd love to hear them.)

Happy birthday, beautiful girl!
Yes, she definitely suffers from third child syndrome. ;-) She is adorable. Ejoy the preschool cuddles and laughter, because as mom to 2 the same age as Thomas and the Brownie, I can tell you it's sad to not have a baby in the house anymore. Happy birthday little Eclair.
Suggestions: Big girl panties, with ruffles or cartoon characters or whatever floats her boat, regretfully folded up and put away "for when you use the bathroom like a big girl." And a glass bowl (see-through) full of m&ms that live in the bathroom (cover with plastic wrap) and are dispensed only when the bathroom is used appropriately. That worked wonders on my daughters.

I just love "i might be going potty right now!"

Happy Birfday, Little Girl! And yes, Daddy is insane, from all indications.
I can tell you from experience, big girl panties are useless if she doesn't like them. my mother made the mistake of trying to bribe me with blue gingham panties. I thought they were ugly and preferred my diapers. And I thougth she was nuts to tell me they were pretty. one of my earliest memories.

rule #1 of bribery:offer somethign the bribee wants.
Happy birfday to your latest sweet thing!
Wow, three years already? Where did the time go? I'm the youngest of 3 kids & I can absolutely say that like The Eclair, I got away with murder. It drove my brother & sister crazy. She's adorable & it sounds like she knows it. Enjoy every minute of babyhood while it lasts.

Happy Birthday Eclair!
Gator, that's too true. My youngest opined that perhaps she'd try panties, and if she didn't like them she'd go back to diapers. Her older sister slowly shook her head. "No. Once you're in Pantyville, there's no going back."
I raised three children -from scratch. Imagine that! And my oldest has told me periodically (every chance she gets) that I was way, way easier on the youngest than I ever was with her and her brother -who occupies the middle space. Maybe I was easier but I like to think of it as just being better at picking my battles! And the youngest had drawn a stubborn streak from every possible genetic angle there could be -and trust me, there are/were a whole lot of stubborn people in her ancestral corners! But, you never really lose the full load of disciplinary tricks, of holding your own in a battle of wits with a small child until the day you become a grandparent and then, trust me, it all flies out the window!
Besides, as I tell my older daughter, with her and her brother, I was an idealist and had notions that certain things would work best in the child-rearing department but by the time #3 arrived, I had decided many of them were useless so went my own merry way. (The result is younger daughter is today a darned good young woman, wonderful mother to two of the brightest and most beautiful children ever too! So I must have done something right -and that's exactly what you are doing now too -something right!)
Happy Birthday to the Eclair! Keep confounding your parents.
good grief. three?? how the time does fly.

i'm a bit late, but happy birthday! i'm sure you made her day very special.
Sometimes the last child in the family, who gets away with murder compared with the older kids, turns out the best. If you and HVLS can stand it, totally ignoring the thumb in the mouth might do the trick.
As a grown Daddy's Girl I gotta say- this here letter is going to make your little one cry sweet happy tears for years to come. I'm guessing once she's old enough she will read and reread this over and over and over :)

I am the last of three girls and never once did I feel that life was easier for me. Mom would tell the oldest to do something, who in turn would tell the middle and low and behold it was always handed down to me.

Now my last child was great because I had extra time to spend with her. The other three were in school. She was easier too. Once the oldest girl told her that she was spoiled because she got away with lots more. She said she was not stupid and watched what made mom mad at the other siblings and just made sure not to do those. things.

I can not believe that your baby is now three years old. Happy Birthday to Miss Elizabeth.

I could tell you horror stories about the thumb sucking and all I am going to say is good luck on getting that to stop. JAG
Wow she looks so much like the Brownie!
My grandaughter was born late April 3 years ago also, which I thought was pretty cool at the time. But after seeing your video I now realize they were born at the same hospital. I've stood in those windows looking at that same parking lot quite a few times now. What a nice coincidence:)It's fun to come back here and see how much your kids have grown.
Dearest Queen Baby:

I offer you my most humble of belated birthday greetings.

Three is THE BEST ever.

Love always,

Your Old Auntie Thim :)
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