One day, my daughter came out of her bedroom with that grin on her face. You know the grin— the one where you know you’re going to be late for something because you now have to spend about two hours cleaning. This was no exception. While I was working on my novel, my daughter slipped into the bathroom, grabbed her shampoo, and proceeded to go into her bedroom…
… and wash … everything …
You name it, it had suds on it. The day’s body count included two lamps, 30 stuffed animals, two area rugs and a twin toddler mattress. I went through the normal stages of parenting-a-toddler grief.
Stage 1: Disbelief—this stage involves staring alternately at the mess and my daughter, not being able to form sounds let alone words or sentences.
Stage 2: Reboot—I exited the room and reentered it, hoping that what I saw was just an anomaly from my brain crashing. It wasn’t.
Stage 3: Ben Affleck—I started crying.
Stage 4: Asking Stupid Questions—For the next 30 seconds, my verbiage was a frantically slurred barrage of rhetorical parent-stock questions that were beyond her ability to answer. “Why would you do this?”, “What were you thinking?”, “Do you hate me?”, “What the hell were you trying to accomplish?”
Stage 5: Anger—Just the blank death stare of a man who is teetering on the edge of sanity.
Stage 6: False Decision—“That’s it, since you can’t keep anything nice, I’m throwing it all out.” I grab a handful of toys, to my daughter’s confusion.
Stage 7: And This Is Why It’s “False”—I realize I can’t throw my daughter’s toys out, that’s just a dick move. I get shocked into stillness as the realization of Stage 8 becomes clear…
Stage 8: Karma—I realize that I did far worse to my mother, and she would laugh at me.
Stage 9: Confirmation—I call my mother and she is indeed laughing.
But, that was nothing compared to the final stage …
After all was said and done, I got rid of (or cleaned) the things that needed to be cleaned. My daughter toddled up to me and looked at the floor. I’m still in a bitter mood, so the first snotty phrase out of my mouth is, “I don’t need to be washed. What do you need?” She looks up at me with her “Mara eyes.”
The technique, known as “Mara Eyes” is a Level-4 Sorcerer’s Illusion spell which has the following effect; the target becomes immediately gooey, compliant and apologetic, regardless of who is really at fault. The target forgets what actually happened and can only see the caster in a positive light. There is no save against this effect and is considered a spell-like ability that can only be used when the target is within a hostile disposition.
The spell must be accompanied with a somatic component, usually along the lines of “Papa, I didn’t mean to make a mess,” or “I love you, Papa, please don’t be mad at me anymore …” I repeat, there is no save against this effect. It must also be accompanied with a downward look of the eyes, with the eyes as large as they could possibly get.
I folded. Quite simply, I gave up, gave her a hug and told her it wasn’t that big a deal. Meanwhile, my inner Louis C.K. is yelling obscenities at me, because it WAS that big a deal.
Then she went back to play and I sat down at my desk, spent. I was reminded of a moment more than 30 years ago when I was a young warthog (when I was a young warthoooooooooog!!!)
My father was a sailor in the US Navy and my mother and I lived on base. I had this habit when my mother would lay me down for a nap, she would take a nap too, and I developed the skill of recognizing when she was sleeping and then go downstairs and do what I wanted. We had a dog that we never let upstairs, because she had a weak bladder, and I guess I wanted to go play with the dog. So I waited until my mother was sleeping and then toddled downstairs.
My mother woke up about 30 minutes later to the sound of running water. When she realized I wasn’t in bed, she ran downstairs and was greeted with the sight of four inches of water throughout the house. The water was coming from the kitchen sink that I had plugged up. Suds were everywhere because, you guessed it, I had emptied the entire 48-ounce bottle of Dawn dish soap into the sink. When I saw my mother, I said one phrase, “Mommy, I have to clean this mess up.”
My mother’s reaction was for her brain to short-circuit and to scream, “JOHNNY!!” Then the dog came over and peed on my mother’s foot. I came that close to being adopted out, at best. Or sold … There are still debates about which option was more viable in the 80’s.
Me and my mother, a few years after this incident.
Note the barely hidden look of defeat in her eyes.
When my daughter was born, I became a “father”. But, in that room, sitting at my desk with a cold cup of coffee, my daughter playing happily in the next room, was when I truly became a “Dad”, with all the rights, privileges and neuroses that came with that title.
Being a Dad is hard work. It’s a tiring endurance trial that makes you question the most basic of questions …
… and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
If anything, it makes my parents laugh when they realize that I was the amateur. My daughter went pro a few years ago.