Last post, I wrote about Ashlyn's recent retro groove, reliving her gory days of the terrible twos. They have been coming almost daily when her will is thwarted, complete with spit, screams, bites, kicks and seizures of wrath. But this time around, we enjoy bonus material: manipulatively cruel words that had been beyond her at age two.
Getting ready for a day at Disneyland, such craziness earned her a two-ride timeout. While serving this timeout, I insisted she go potty now so she'd be ready to party on ride #3. It’s our Disneyland tradition to clear the bladder before the day begins. She insisted she did not need to go.
So committed was she to being right about this that she sat on the john and held it, refusing to pee lest it give me any fatherly sense of having been right. (And how loathsome that would be!) I told her she had to either pee or remain seated (as in “Permanecer sentados, por favor”) for five minutes, whichever came first.
She opted for none of the above, hopping off the pot and announcing, "I’m NOT going to go potty." I plopped her back on the can. She slid off. A few cycles of this, including one which baptized half of her dress, and I was nearly done.
I returned the seething princess to her throne once more, and told her she had to start her five minutes over again. I shut the stall door more solidly than necessary and then tried to appear cool as dudes entered and left the men’s room.
Somewhere around then, Ashlyn screamed, “You’re a stupid boy, Daddy!” and descended from the commode.
That was it.
I snatched her up and carried her out of the restroom fireman-style, flailing and shrieking (Ashlyn, not me—yet). I felt the toilet water soaking into the right shoulder of my shirt as we walked through Ariel’s Grotto, where wide-eyed children awaited the arrival of Ashlyn’s favorite princess. Up the stairs toward the exit I stomped, enjoying a pause in the screams as Ashlyn eyed the magical scene from her upside-down vantage point, intrigued or embarrassed or both.
Once out of princess view, she resumed her tirade with fresh vigor, screaming the four-year-old equivalent of profanities at me as we worked our way toward the park gate. If she didn’t love her Gweppy so much, I swear she’d have insulted my mother.
“We are leaving Disneyland, Ashlyn. Little girls who act like this cannot be in Disneyland. We are going to the car.”
Halfway out, I tried letting her walk, since my carrying seemed to be irking her more. She thanked me by sprinting away from me, crying, “Help! Help! Help!” I seriously wondered if I someone would confiscate the child from me. (At least I could hope....)
“Ashlyn, STOP!” I barked in my most business-meaning bass tone. Mercifully, she did.
I carried her the rest of the way to the tram, trying to sound like a responsible parent as we got our hands stamped on exit, explaining to Ashlyn our reason for leaving with feigned calm. She wiped the hand stamp off and kept screaming.
I remember saying, “Ashlyn, you are a good girl. But good girls can turn into bad girls. And I love you too much to let that happen. I will not let you turn into a bad girl. I will help you be the real Ashlyn, the good Ashlyn.” Who knows if she heard it. But I still mean it. That love and that fear coexist every day I see her like this.
She screamed on the tram ride, sitting as far away from me as I would let her. She ran from me again as we got off the tram, and I laid into her again about never EVER running away from Daddy. I sat her down on a planter at the base of the mammoth Disney parking garage, and growled warnings about swats and extended time-outs if she ran away again.
The wait was on.
I pulled out my phone and began this post while Ashlyn’s screams turned to fussing, which turned into sulking, which turned into silence.
The sun shone through scattered clouds.
Minutes later, Ashlyn was digging in the planter for roly-polies. She found one and brought it to me.
"Daddy, I found a roly-poly!"
“That’s cool, Ashlyn.” Those things are nasty, actually.
She dropped it. “Oh no! Daddy, please help me find my roly-poly!”
I dug it out of the dirt and was her hero. “Thank you, Daddy!”
We chilled there for awhile, bonding over bugs, talking as if neither of us had been monsters just 15 minutes before.
It was better than Disneyland.
Finally, I got back to the unfinished business. “Ashlyn, why aren’t we going on rides right now?”
“Oh…’cause…I’ll tell you why. ‘Cause…I’m playing with roly-polies.” (Duh, Daddy!)
She was right, of course.
I did review some other reasons for her fate of sow bugs over Space Mountain, lest she be overly happy about the whole punishment. The conversation worked its way through my hurt feelings at the mean words she’d said. She quickly apologized in a tone that was sincere enough to count, but also connoted some amount of “That was so half an hour ago, Daddy.”
We moved on to the fact that even after all this drama I still required that she sit on the potty for five minutes, or go pee pee, whichever came first. She went in happily and as I expected, drained cups of urine from her little bladder. I finished with a fatherly reminder of how much more fun we’d have had if she’d done that the first time I asked.
We grabbed a sandwich and met the rest of the happy throng back inside the park. She was kisses and hugs and I love you’s for the rest of the day.
And we lived happily ever after. Or, till the end of the day. Whichever came first.