Do you know what the trouble is with being dad? Missy dismisses me as a fringe player in the family, until, that is, the dark depths of the night.
I get given “the hand” on a daily basis; my daughters’ favourite daytime words are “no daddy” or worse; “no more daddy”. I’m not sure if she just wants me to leave, or is planning a mafia style hit.
Then night comes. The time all parents’ overtly, or secretly, love. The wondrous hours after the children have been fed, watered, bathed, pyjamas on and plonked into bed. It is a precious childfree time for parents to relax, with a pint of Scotch, and a kilo of chocolate.
But alas, my daughter has an unexplainable evil trait. She will wait just long enough for that false sense of security to descend on my wife and I, before she launches her psychological attack. An attack so cunning, I am not all that equipped in the brains department to defend properly against it.
“Daddy, daddy, daddy”, I hear in an urgent little chirp. In I rush, Canadian Mountie style, to save the day. Is it a fire? Is the boogieman coming? I’d even accept the big bad wolf hiding under the bed.
Instead, I am greeted invariably with one of three issues.
1) “Daddy, I’m cold”
2) “Daddy, I’m thirsty.”
3) “Daddy, I want to see Mummy”
Number 1: Is just to mess with me, as Missy throws off the covers as I arrive, then expectantly waits for me to pull them back over her.
Number 2: Now this one is a trap for young players. The “I’m thirsty” card is played over and over. Missy is like the cinematic crooked poker player, with a dozen aces up his coat sleeve. You know that no-one can have 4 aces, 5 hands in a row, but do you genuinely want to challenge a man with burrowing, emotionless eyes, and an itchy trigger-finger? Likewise, what if Missy actually is thirsty? Am I to deny my daughter the basic right of water?
Number 3: This is a strange one. This happens after we have gone to bed. My wife and I call it “the viewing” as all Missy wants to do is for me to pick her up, stand at our bedroom door, see (and wave), at my wife, (who is feigning sleep). After the viewing, she is happily deposited back into bed. Sometimes it’s 2 or 3 times a night. I think most of the time, Missy does want to have a look, make sure the family is all there, but other times, it’s an excuse to try and stay awake.
Here is the issue. Children learn remarkably quickly to manipulate their parents with plausible issues. We must be vigilant.
During the night, Missy will invariably need something done urgently, to facilitate her return to the land of nod. Sometimes it’s the above, sometimes Missy will heave her favourite bunny out of the bed, then wail like a turkey in November at the injustice of it all. I know she is just looking to hang out with dad, and once operation “Rescue Bunny” is complete, and she has been administered a pat on the head, it’s happily back to sleep – for her, anyway. But then, as the night slowly yields its dark power to the morning light, Missy goes firmly back to “no more daddy”, and the planning of my demise continues. I wonder if the hit will be quick and painless? I sure hope so.