Friday, February 4, 2011

Our opposite daughter

I’m standing outside the glass wall looking at a roomful of frightened 4 and 5 year olds and one very alarmed supervisor when an alien thought enters my mind.
“So this is what it feels like to be a pervert.”
The children have clearly been well-schooled when it comes to dealing with suspicious strangers. They’re backing away toward the far wall and looking to the adult for safety instruction.
One heroic boy looks ready to break free from the grocery store child care center and dash over to Aisle 7 for defensive cutlery.
Me, I continue to kneel down and make more desperate funny faces and hope maybe -- maybe -- the world’s most confounding daughter will bail me out and acknowledge that, yes, that’s my Daddy.
Fat chance.
This is the fourth time this has happened. My wife and I have taken separate cars to the grocery store. Val puts Lucy, 4, in the play room and begins her solitary shopping.
I sneak in and hope to surprise the kid by making her smile with my goofy antics on the other side of the secure room’s glass.
Instead of, as normal daughters do, lighting up with surprised joy at seeing her great big buddy clowning just for her, she freezes, her face betraying zero recognition.
I’ve read enough news stories to know what strangers think when they see a child react to an adult like this. So has the supervisor.
“Danger! Creep! Pedophile! Snatcher! Tase! Mace! Knee testicles!”
It’s very disconcerting for a father who considers himself the World’s Best Daddy and was given a beer mug to support the egotistic contention.
I can’t believe she’s already so subversive that she is pranking me -- and it’s a prank I’d admire because it’s highly embarrassing.
But there are indications this is exactly the kind of girl she’ll grow up to be.
The first daughter, 10, played by all the rules. We knew which actions would trigger which emotions.
This one has a nasty streak that emerges at odd times.
I remember when she was 3 and quietly playing with her dolls. She was chirping sunshine to the tiny figures as she moved them about the dolly dance floor. I felt swept up by the emotion of watching her play.
I knelt beside her, my heart swelling with parental affection, and gushed, “Lucy, you are so beautiful!”
Her face reddened, she quietly turned and seemed to rise up the size of a Sasquatch. Her voice quaking with anger, she unleashed what to her was the most stinging insult she could conjure.
“No! YOU’RE beautiful!”
I’ve been called worse.
I like to play loud rock around the girls in hopes it’ll take root as a musical disinfectant when they’re exposed to all that godawful Disney crap.
I remember the time The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was playing. I was holding her in my arms and singing the righteous anthem that always gets my pulse pounding. I held her little face close to mine and sang the euphoric chorus: “We won’t get fooled again!”
Without emotion, she looked at me with dead eyes and prophesied, “We WILL get fooled again.”
So we sense she’s an opposite daughter. There are many inherent risks raising a child who always does the opposite of what you tell her to do.
It bends all your instincts of perceived wisdom. 
You tell her to, go ahead, it’s fun to play with Nana’s heirloom vase and, no, the hot stove won’t hurt you, darling.
The biggest concern is, gee, one day she will doubtless cease her oppositions and do exactly what you tell her to do.
Knowing this, the girl we named Lucinda and often call Lulu, will likely do it at some all-school assembly when the children are asked rah-rah questions about how they intend to grow up and contribute to society.
She’ll say, “My Daddy tells me I’ll need to always remember to be mean, lazy and do lots and lots of drugs!”
She is, indeed, a Lulu.
I think she ignores me at the play room window because she just loves her Mommy so much. When she’s been left alone she doesn’t want to see me.
She wants to see Mommy.
Thus, it’s essential I stay on Mommy’s good side.
It’s one thing when I’m standing there explaining to the play room supervisor that I’m Lucy’s dad, I’m not a pervert and my loving wife will be here any second to prove it.
But I don’t know what I’ll say the day Val walks up and delivers a line I’ll still, even in handcuffs, have to admire for reasons of subversive genius.
“I’ve never seen this creep before in my life.”

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