When Special Snowflake #1 was 2 years old, I used to take her to the gym with me on Saturday mornings. We were living in New York City and we’d stop for breakfast on the way there and occasional snacks on the way home. At the gym, I’d sign Snowflake in to the childcare area and then go to my boxing class. I quickly learned that from a child’s perspective, few things in life that are better than other people’s toys, regardless of whatever condition they happen to be in. For Snowflake, between breakfast, snacks, and someone else’s toys, the day couldn’t have had a better start.
I loved the daddy-daughter time and I really enjoyed that boxing class. As a matter of fact, that class had a not-insignificant impact on my first novel. If I wasn’t capable of sweating the immense volume that I do, it’s possible the idea of the adventures of the world’s dirtiest superhero might never have come to me.
There was moment—lasting a few weeks, actually—when snowflake dreaded the play area. Her displeasure wasn’t the area itself, but rather the fact that I wasn’t there with her. I could walk out of class and could hear her bellowing from two floors away and sometimes my time in boxing class would be shortened when the gym staff would come to retrieve me. Other than these few consecutive Saturdays, Snowflake never really experienced any other separation anxiety, and for whatever reason, the problem ended as suddenly as it started.
One Saturday, I’d gone to pick up Snowflake and the day care provider was waiting for me at the door. “Don’t get upset,” she urged me before I had the opportunity to even peek into the room. “It’s not your fault,” she added more than once.
Before I could ask any questions, Snowflake ran up to me. She appeared fine and in no way distressed. There didn’t seem to be any reason to worry, but I was still curious about whatever it might have been that I wasn’t supposed to get upset about.
And then I saw it. The care providers had given my daughter a ballpoint pen and she’d drawn on everything… the wall, the desk, a chair… absolutely everything was completely covered in scribble. I remember thinking that it was sort of impressive: the complete coverage she managed to provide for an entire corner of the room and absolutely everything inside of it. But feel regret? I felt no remorse whatsoever. Who would give a pen to a two-year old?
Karma has a way of making you rethink things however, and five years later, the time arrived… at 6:00 in the morning.
Snowflake #2 woke me with the news that she’d “accidentally” dropped a pen on her leg. If she’d yelled it from the other room, I’m sure I would’ve thought, “there’s no part of this that won’t be any different when I actually feel like getting out of bed,” but she was standing beside me so I rolled over to survey the damage.
If you’re questioning my parenting skills, let me add that on any given morning, Snowflake #2 begins her day between 5:00 and 7:00. Yes, we’ve encouraged her to stay in bed and yes, we’ve bought one of those clocks that changes color when it’s an allowable time to get up. We’ve had a certain amount of “limited success” with these alternatives, depending on how much success you want to attribute to updates along the lines of “my clock’s not green yet” being shouted continuously from the other room.
What I generally wind up doing is taking Snowflake #2 to the playroom–this time in our house–where I make sure she’s occupied with toys and cartoons before sleeping off the rest of the pre-dawn hours in the guest room. I’m less than 30 feet away at any given time… if this isn’t good enough, please feel free to come babysit. Your shift starts tomorrow at 4:30.
So… I was in guestroom when she’d come to show me what she’d done. Dropped a pen? Hardly. Covered her legs in ink with a thoroughness I’d only seen once previously? Yeah, pretty much. My daughters share a previously undocumented “ink coverage” gene I suppose. My lovely red-headed wife and I have yet to discuss whose side of the family this originates from.
I’ll admit my first thought was, “that won’t get any worse in the next hour” as I noticed the time was still well before 7:00 am, but any thoughts of returning to sleep were immediately replaced with, “Wait… what does the rest of the house look like?” My day had started. More sleep wasn’t going to happen.
Miraculously, there was only a small bit of other damage: a tiny spot on the couch that somehow grew worse as my efforts at cleaning did little more than spread the ink around.
I’d swear that within the newer, larger spot is the visage of destiny laughing, but that might just be my sleep deprivation.