During a recent ride home from an afternoon of risking life and limb at IKEA , my eldest daughter informed us that she needed 100 of something for a school project in the morning. Being exhausted and poor, my wife and I began to make suggestions to our daughter based on what we had in the house. She vetoed many perfectly viable, but apparently dull suggestions. Fearing we may actually have to invest some energy in our daughter’s education, I had a moment of inspiration. I made a suggestion that not only garnered her approval, but may have changed her life.
“How about Fruit Loops?” I offered, feeling confident, but certainly not exuberant about my idea. She responded, aghast at the suggestion.
“DAD! GROSS! No. Not Bird poops.”
I will not pretend that suggesting bird poops is outside the realm of possibility for me. They are free, countable, and abundant depending on the season. However, in this case, I did NOT make that suggestion. I swiftly corrected my daughter and, relieved, she accepted the offer of the colorful cereal dwelling in our pantry. I would like to tell you that the rest of the ride home continued appropriately; but the damage had been done.
Even though my daughter possesses my wife’s sensibilities, she also has my sense of humor and the normal propensities of a second grader. After the horror connected to the word “poop” passed, the humor of the word took over. From the driver’s seat I began to hear giggling, as my daughter worked out the pun. “I said bird poops…that sounds like fruit loops…fruit loops…bird poops…” This revelation was repeated in various forms as she talked herself through the sounds–allowing her glee to move past giggling to wild cackling as I heard her say, rather too excitedly, “Fruit poops!”
Some of you will judge me for not swiftly rebuking my daughter’s delight at such terms. Believe me, the last thing I want are gross kids—but am I really going to be the first adult in history to convince a second grader not to laugh at bodily functions? Some of you reading are middle aged and not only started laughing at the sight of the word, but probably made the decision to read this post based on the word “poops” in the title. You know who you are. I opted to allow it for a few moments before trying to calm her down—except she made another rhyme.
“Wait…wait…fruit TOOTS! TOOTS RHYMES WITH FRUITS!”
I am a professional writer. I understand the sheer delight that comes from crafting the perfect phrase, discovering an unknown word that conveys rich nuances of meaning, or cleverly crafting a pun to put a smile on someone’s face. Who was I to squelch my daughter’s crudimentary attempts at wordsmithing? Well, the answer is that I am her father—someone who wants to foster any creative gifts she has in the right direction by attempting redirection when talents go awry. Besides the bursts of alarmingly maniacal laughter coming from the backseat, as “fruits”, “toots”, and “poops” whipped around in a cyclone of silliness, threatened the sanity of everyone in the van.
By “everyone” I mean my wife.
I was struggling not lose my own composure and float up to the realm of hilarity like Jane and Michael in Mary Poppins.
“Okay, okay—that’s enough,” I said, managing to stay calm.
“TOOTY FRUITY BOOTY! BOOTY RHYMES WITH FRUITY AND TOOTY!”
“OKAY! Yes, you found a rhyme [deep breaths] very good…” I soothed, reminding myself that I was an adult. There’s no reason to laugh here. This is sad. Yes, that’s what this is, very sad. A sad moment in time where a simple miscommunication resulted in unfettered inappropriateness and…
“Mooty [giggles], flooty [giggles faster], rooty [giggles resembling hyperventilation]…” she said, unable to contain the word flow ushered along by pure, sweet nonsense. Gripping the steering wheel, I determined not to be broken by these terms, which I had no way to protect myself against because I didn’t know what she would say next. By the way, this is where I usually lose it. I will be having a “heart to heart” “teachable moment” type scenario and I will ask a question I feel has an obvious answer. Instead, the reply I get from my children is something earnestly out of left field that immediately renders me incapable of adulting. For example, on a related note, while we have eliminated all references (and practices) of tooting at the dinner table, my middle child will periodically excuse herself to stand in the doorframe of the bathroom in order to toot before returning to the table. Yes, it’s progress, but that doesn’t eliminate my need to cover my face with my hands in a futile attempt to suppress laughter.
“You found more rhymes…” [deep breaths] “…very good..,” I said in soothing tones, for my benefit as well as hers. At this pivotal juncture, I made a spectacular move that ended the crisis. “Madeline…Madeline…Daddy can’t drive safe with all the noise…” It’s not a great sentence, but it is a statement that appeals to my daughter’s sensible side. She is highly conscientious, in addition to being easily amused, and the possible compromising of safety began to have an effect.
“…fruits and toots and poops…,” she exhaled happily as her whirlwind of wordsmithing slowed to a gradual stop. The moment of lunacy passed and we all made it home safely with most of our sanity intact. We participated in the usual bedtime rituals without incident. As I kissed my daughter goodnight she gave me a mischievous smile—a knowing look I had to steel myself against in order to preserve bedtime from a burial underneath a blanket of laughter.
“I love you dad,” she said unsolicited. I told her I loved her too and gave her a hug and kiss goodnight.
Families say a lot of words during their day. Some words are weird, some words are annoying, some of them hilarious, some of them inappropriate; but no matter what is said, a genuine “I love you” before bed is always the best way to end the day.