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July 07, 2002

The Magic of a Four Year-Old Little Girl

There are a lot of really pleasant surprises that you find as you travel through life. There are all the firsts. The first time driving a car. The first time flying in a plane, and watching the world shrink beneath you. There's the first kiss, along with all those other firsts that turn out to be so much more than you expected. Then there are the things that you never knew could be so . . . well . . . special. A snowy winter evening with the wind whistling around the roof and the snow beating against the window but you're snug in your living room with the cat stretched out in front of a cozy fireplace, your kids scattered around the room and your wife snuggled in your lap. A lazy summer day at dusk with the kids and the dog laughing and playing in the yard while the sun seems to melt into the horizon. (Ok, the dog wasn't laughing, but you know what I mean). Watching your kids sleep. Hearing your kid say "Daddy" for the first time. The smell of wet oak leaves and moist Oklahoma soil after a spring shower. The taste of an ice cold Mountain Dew after mowing and weedeating the lawn. The feel of your wife's back pressed against yours as you both drift off to sleep. But one of the biggest, most pleasant surprises that I've received has to be, being the father of a four year-old little girl.

I wake her up a little after six to give her her medicine. Even though I carefully put her blanket over her and tucked it in the night before,  in the morning the blanket, usually is anywhere from wadded up at her feet to across the room. There's this kind of angelic bliss that little girls radiate when they're asleep. I generally just whisper that it's time for her medicine and since she's accustomed to taking it she opens her mouth and chews it without ever really waking up. Sometimes she'll get up on her own as she hears the boys watching morning cartoons, but sometimes she stays in bed, and demands that I carry her to the living room. I'm sort of a traveling bed that she can continue to sleep on as she's transported to her place in the living room. generally when she does this she wants me to stay until she's ready to completely wake up. She doesn't do this every time so I indulge her when she does.

We've been battling over her breakfast eggs lately. I had been cutting them up, but she's old enough to do it on her own now, so I've been insisting that she do it. But she still wants me to, and will stubbornly pretend to not know how. It's not that I didn't enjoy cutting up her eggs, in fact I kinda looked forward to it, and dreaded the time when she wouldn't need me to do it. But I know that she needs to grow up, and this is just the beginning of letting go, so I stay strong, and make her cut up her own eggs. We've been going through the same thing with the milk she wants stirred up in her oatmeal. Another thing I need to give up for the sake of her need to grow up.

Then there are the questions. "Daddy, can we get that?" "Daddy, can we go there?" "Daddy, can you get a tuxedo for GI Joe so he can marry Barbie?" One afternoon she came in to my bedroom/office and said, "Daddy, when . . . uh . . . when . . . what will . . . um . . . y'know that thing . . . um . . . when it . . . uh . . . can we?  Huh? Can we?" Fortunately by that time I'd learned the magic Daddy Words and said, "Well see." She smiled and trotted out. Those words worked wonderfully for several months until she eventually caught on that they really didn't provide her any more of an answer than she had before she'd asked the question. So now I have to add some long pauses while I frown, sigh deeply and stare at the ceiling like I'm giving it some serious thought before saying, "Well . . . we'll see." So far that's been good enough for her, but I know I'll eventually have to figure out a new technique.

The one thing I don't want to do is say yes of "uh huh" unless I know exactly what I've been asked and know that the answer is yes. I read a news story about a mother who was getting ready to cross a busy street with her young daughter. She was turning to do something when she heard her daughter ask her something. Without thinking she automatically replied, "uh huh". The little girl, who'd just asked if it was alright to cross the street, stepped into oncoming traffic and was killed instantly. Maybe that's a one in a million chance that something like that could happen, but my little girl is a one in a million little girl to me, so it's worth the effort to make sure I don't ever risk doing the same thing.

I'm a practical joker from a long line of practical jokers (someday I'll regale you with the legendary exploits of my ancestors) so I tease alot. My little girl has found that the most effective way to stop me from teasing her, when she not in the mood, is to smile big and tell me "Daddy, I love you soooo much." It usually works. But more often than not she'll whine at the teasing, until I stop, then demand I continue. She did that just today with her cousin. My wife hasn't figured out that she actually likes the game of being teased, whining, then laughing.

When we drive she competes with the radio. She loves to sing, whether she knows the words or even the tune. If the radio's off she'll serenade us with her repertoire of children's songs from Cedarmont Kids' videos we bought her. Her brothers are not big fans, but her mother and I certainly are. We especially enjoy her rendition of "Our God is uh Awesomem God".

Last month when I had surgery on my foot and had to walk with a cane, she asked if I would get her a little cane so she could walk around with it.

She's constantly asking when she'll be grown up. She loves trying on clothes, especially her mothers, especially when her mother doesn't know she's doing it. She came strutting into the living room one evening when her mother was at work, proudly wearing one of her mother's bras. I kept a straight face, but the boys rolled off the couch laughing, so she ran out of the room crying. I went to her and gave her a hug, she pouted awhile, then took the bra off, and returned to the living room, where after one look at my face the boys knew they darn well better not laugh anymore. Another time she grabbed my wife's slip, put it on and announced that it was her wedding dress. She made my wife promise to save it for her to wear when she grows up and gets married.

One morning she knocked on our door shouting, "Mommy, I got you some flowers!!" We opened the door to find that she'd pulled the artificial flowers from my wife's wedding bouquet and put it in a ceramic pot she'd made in Sunday School. My wife was angry because she'd worked so hard at trying to keep the bouquet, but I pointed out that we both knew that eventually, with four kids, the bouquet was gonna get destroyed, and at least we had a cute memory that couldn't get destroyed. She didn't agree with me then, but now, months later, laughs about it, and acknowledges that it was a fair trade.

When I put my little girl to bed I always give her three kisses, one one the cheek, one on the forehead, and one on the other cheek, then ask her if she's my little girl. She says yes, and I then kiss her on the nose and tell her I'm glad she's my little girl, then she gives me a kiss on the cheek. She demands I put her to bed this way every night. I don't know how old girls get before they feel they've outgrown goodnight kisses from their daddy, but I really hope it's not for a long, long time.

Comments

Posted by Jack Lewis at July 7, 2002 07:09 PM