Something seems to have happened to my child.
She turned three-and-a-half recently, and since then she’s gone mildly psychotic. I mean, she was always eccentric, but in a quiet way. A basically manageable one. Now? She’s wearing me down. I’m going grayer by the minute. Not just my hair, either. My skin. My brain. The soles of my feet.
First, she’s become a Diva. She goes on tears that rival Streisand’s. Tantrums about the way I’ve sliced her pita bread. Wild-eyed rants about where she will and will not poop. Shrieking fits when–God forbid–we attempt to wipe her nose with a paper tissue. Only cloth napkins for our little princess!
But she’s also gone OCD. She’s obsessed, for example, with playing doctor. Obsessed. She wants to play it eight hours a day. More. Her work ethic is spectacular. She’s like that guy from “House,” but on steroids. Maybe he is on steroids. I’ve never actually watched the show.
Anyway, the trouble is, she’ll only play it with me. Because here’s another problem: The days of her amusing herself happily for hours are gone. It’s all Mama, all the time. I’ve never wanted another kid in the house so badly. I’d rent one, if I could. But we’re on a budget. So, for interminable hours every day, I’m at “the office.” Myra-Jean brings me “patients,” one after another. I reluctantly put on the plastic Fisher Price stethoscope that maims and tortures my ears. Who that thing was designed to fit I’ll never understand. A giant, it seems, with bare gaping holes on the sides of his head.
I say to whatever stuffed animal MJ puts in front of me–an owl, perhaps–
“Welcome. I’m Dr. Jessica. What brings you to the doctor today?”
The owl–via MJ–replies. “I’m coughing. And throwing up. I have a fever.”
I make concerned sounds and listen to the owl’s heart. My daughter watches raptly. Not because she’s admiring my work. No, she’s waiting for me to slip up. Her entire reason for being there, really, is to tell me what I’m doing wrong. She’s like a vulture swooping down ravenously on my every misstep. I can almost feel the breeze from her approaching wings.
I pick up a pipe cleaner lying on the examination table. “Let me give you a shot–”
“Not with that!” MJ shrieks. “That’s the tongue depressor!” She picks up a plastic fork. “This is the needle.”
I take it, chastened. “Sorry.”
I give owl the shot. MJ makes crying sounds. “You hurt him.”
“I apologize,” I say. “Shots hurt.”
She is stern. “He needs a band aid.”
“Right.” I search around. Spotting a scrap of construction paper on the floor I pick it up and press it to owl’s wing. “There.”
“That’s not a band aid!” MJ rips it from my grasp. Tears well in her eyes. “That’s a stool sample. For the lab!” She begins to cry.
“Just tell me what to use,” I say, helpless before her frustrated grief.
She wipes her tears. With a cloth napkin. You have no idea how many of them I wash. Every. Single. Day. God forbid paper should ever touch her face. Some day, if MJ ever poops in the potty, I will be wiping her bottom with silk.
Speaking of which. We had book club on Wednesday night. It was raucous as usual. Among the things discussed: sea sponge tampons (again), possible uses for a 14 1/2 inch dildo, and something called the “family cloth.” The latter is, apparently, a new environmental movement wherein families use fabric instead of paper to wipe their bottoms. It is then washed and reused.
That night I proposed “family cloth” to Mike. His eyebrows went so high they almost penetrated the ceiling. I should do it for a week, he said, then talk to him.
He lacks zeal, I’m afraid.
I probably would give it a try without him, too, except that I have no receptacle in which to place my, er, wasted fabric. Had I not thrown away our Diaper Genie in a fit of rage it might have filled the ticket. As it stands, though, I fear I must recuse myself for lack of equipment. Not to mention marital support, which seems vital for such an undertaking. It’s too bad, too, because I just retired my favorite sheets. Cut into small pieces they would’ve been just what the doctor ordered. Instead they’ll act as reserve troops for MJ’s vast and well-trained napkin army. No civil service for them, either. They’ll be in combat in no time.
Anyway. I’ll say one last thing on the subject of playing doctor. Fisher Price’s kit comes with a toy blood pressure monitor, too, and it turns out it comes in mighty handy when your daughter puts bread up her nose and it gets stuck there. In the end you’ll have to go to the doctor anyway, where they’ll lie her down and spray saline solution up her nostril in a way that reminds you–just a tiny bit–of waterboarding. But before that, when you’re still at home and she’s screaming “Don’t take me to the doctor! Pleeeeeeeeease”?
You’ll pull the yellow squeezy thing off and try using it like a bulb syringe. It won’t work. But you’ll congratulate yourself on your resourcefulness. And wonder if you shouldn’t have gone to med school after all.