Little Girl Blue, soon to be clocking her sixth year outside the womb, is an amazing little girl. She’s a charming human being, full of love and curious about the world. Her verbal skills and eloquence are amazing—easily a year or two ahead of most of her peers. She can memorize and perform entire scenes from Scooby-Doo movies and Eloise episodes. She’s a talented little artist at times, too (although she really needs to work on her gluing skills and effective use of mixed media).
But sometimes, she just makes me say to myself, silently but firmly: What the fuck?
Today has been one of the more interesting days of bewilderment on my part, as exemplified by three conversations that each represent a hellish archetype to which I and Mrs. Blue are regularly subjected.
The I Can’t Effectively Manage Time Conversation
Not that I expect Little Girl Blue to be an effective time-manager, but this kind of conversation is one she has been routinely coached against pursuing, yet she refuses to heed me. I estimate I have lost at least four years of productive time due to these kinds of conversations with her, and she’s only turning six this month.
Me: “Yes, Honeybunch?”
Daughter: “Can I ask you a question?”
Daughter: (long pause)
Me: “Ask the question, Sweetie. Please.”
Daughter: “Well, I was thinking…you see…[insert out of context transitional clause here]…what I was thinking was…you know how [insert situation with possibly relevant role in conversation but probably not]…So what I wanted to know was…[insert actual question here].”
Me: “Whoa. You’ve completely lost me. Try that again.”
Daughter: (raises voice to a near shout) “WHAT I’M ASKING IS…DO…YOU…KNOW…[insert actual question here, more clearly and succinctly stated than before, but presented in loud one-word increments separated by one full second between each word, thus causing me to quickly lose comprehension.]”
Me: “I could hear you before. Could you try just speaking normal speed and normal volume and just ask the question without giving me all the backstory?”
Daughter: [insert totally intelligible and articulate question here]
Me: [insert appropriate answer here.]
Daughter: “Thanks, Daddy.”
Me: “You’re welcome, Honey. You know, we could save a lot of time if you at least didn’t keep saying ‘Daddy’ and then waiting for me to respond and then saying you have a question and waiting for me to respond to that. You could just come right out and ask the question right off the bat. It would be way more efficient.”
Daughter: “OK, Daddy.”
Daughter: (somewhere between one and ten minutes later) “Daddy?”
Me: “Yes, Honey?”
Daughter: “I have a question…”
P.S. The above kind of conversation most often occurs, and with more intensity, when I am driving and trying to concentrate on us not dying in an impact with one of the many clueless local drivers or, worse yet, the even more clueless out-of-town tourists.
The Please Drop the Subject Already Conversation
This conversation is about as close to verbatim as I can manage from today’s actual experiences. Refusing to drop a topic that is annoying to me is a common feature of life with Little Girl Blue, and many of them follow the same pattern as the one below.
Daughter: “Daddy, did you and Mommy say you liked that restaurant we just passed?”
Me: “No. In fact, about every second or third time we pass it and you ask that question, we’ve told you we couldn’t stand the place.”
Daughter: “Oh, I thought you liked it.”
Me: “You always say that. But we’ve never said one good thing about it, and you ask about that restaurant more and more often when we drive down this road. We don’t like it. At all. Not one bit.”
Daughter: “What don’t you like about it?”
Me: “The food is garbage and the service stinks and it’s not even all that inexpensive so it’s not remotely worth visiting.”
Daughter: “So you and Mommy don’t like eating there?”
Me: “No. I’m sure someone must like it, because they’re still in business after all these years, but we’re probably never going to go there again. So, there’s no reason to talk about it.”
Daughter: “What if someone forced you to go eat there?”
Daughter: “What if someone made you guys go eat there?”
Me: “Why would someone do that?”
Daughter: “Because…I don’t know. They need to pass a test? Or they’re really mean?”
Me: “Well, the chances of someone doing that…look, why do you always imagine these crazy scenarios? I mean, I like imagination and all, but why every time I give you a simple answer you have to counter it with some really off-the-wall scenario that doesn’t even make sense or just tell me the opposite of what I said is true even though it’s clear that I know what I’m talking about?”
Daughter: “I just do.”
Me: “Well, even if someone did try to force me to eat there, what makes you think I’d let them? Do you think I do things every time someone tries to force me?”
Me: “OK. Good. Look, we don’t like the food there, we’re probably never going to eat there again, and no one’s going to force us to. End of story. Cool?”
Daughter: “OK, Daddy.” (a few seconds pass) “Daddy, do you think the cooks there are bad cooks?”
Me: “No. They might be good cooks. But they have to cook the way the restaurant owners say to cook. And the owners probably buy crappy ingredients and don’t have good recipes and make the cooks rush to get stuff out instead of doing it right. I mean, if I buy a frozen meal from Trader Joe’s and cook it according to the directions and it ends up sucking, that’s not the fault of me. I know how to follow the directions and I know how to cook well from scratch. It was the meal in the box that stunk. The restaurant could have people who know how to cook when they’re allowed to use good stuff. But I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t care. I want to stop talking about that restaurant now. In fact, I don’t ever want to talk about it again.”
Daughter: “OK, Daddy.”
Daughter: (one minute later). “Daddy, what do you think I would think of the food at that restaurant?”
Me: [insert possibly inappropriate frustration-induced language followed by a fervent plea to just drop the subject already.]
The Zero Information Conversation
In this kind of conversation, absolutely no useful information whatsoever is conveyed to me, and I cannot for the life of me imagine how Little Girl Blue even imagined for a moment I would have any need to hear about the non-topic of conversation. In fact, some of these conversations impart so little information that I think it’s a “negative information” conversation and that information is being sucked out of my brain instead of inserted into it, increasing my chances of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The conversation below occurred as I was trying to wash Little Girl’s Blue hair before bedtime tonight.
Daughter: “So, you said that someone you trust said ‘Zookeeper’ was a bad movie?”
Me: “Uh, yeah. I mean, I saw some reviews and some people I know online have said it was a totally worthless movie.”
Daughter: “Oh. You know someone I trust said there was some new superhero movie out and that no one should waste their money on it. Captain American something.”
Me: “There’s a Captain America movie that just came out. A lot of people say they don’t like it and a lot of people say they do like it. So it’s not a movie like ‘Zookeeper’ where most folks say it stinks.”
Daughter: “So some people like it and some people don’t. Well, there was a real person on TV who said we shouldn’t waste our money on it.”
Me: “TV? The ‘person you trust’ is a movie reviewer or something on the television? (long pause) Wait, wait…where would you have seen a movie review on TV? None of the channels you watch have movie reviews.”
Daughter: “I don’t know. I just did.”
Me: “When? And what channel were you on?”
Daughter: “At the beginning of July.”
Me: “Honey, the beginning of July was like three weeks ago, and the movie wasn’t even out yet at that time. So that couldn’t be true. Are you just making this up?”
Me: “So when did this happen and what were you watching on TV?”
Daughter: “The middle of July.”
Me: “Honey, the middle of July was a week or so ago, and the movie still wasn’t out then, so no one could have known whether it was a good movie or a bad one. The month is almost over. So could you please tell me once and for all when this happened and where you saw it and what it was about?”
Daughter: “I don’t know.”
Me: “So, you’re telling me that at some point in time you can’t remember when, you were watching some channel you never watch but can’t remember what it is now, where you saw someone say ‘don’t waste your money’ seeing a movie that you don’t know what it was. You basically started a conversation based on absolutely no information I could possibly make use of or make sense of. Are you trying to drive me insane?”
So, if you wonder why I might seem snarky or even slightly insane at times, now you know why. But if you have a kid (or kids) yourself, you probably understood that already. Guess I’ll keep Little Girl Blue, though. She’s personable and has lots of potential, she makes pretty pictures for me, she’s really nice to her teachers and friends and she gives great hugs and kisses.
Besides, the hospital doesn’t seem to have a return policy and I doubt Mrs. Blue has the original receipt anymore for the darling (and maddening) little girl.