Published on January 28th, 2015 | by Richard Black0
I’m Sorry that I Will Always be Late: An Apology on Behalf of My Wife and Daughter
I’m always astounded at my daughter’s ability to learn. I’m also often amazed at her ability to apply the things she’s learned at precisely the wrong moment. Then again she may just have an extremely well developed sense of irony. The apple does not fall far from the tree.
A few nights ago Laura and I were scheduled to have a date night. I should mention, for clarity’s sake that Laura is my wife, Darcy is my daughter and fathers who go on dates with their daughters need to look up the term “date” in the dictionary and possibly seek professional help.
Despite the fictional studies I’ve been quoting to the contrary Laura firmly believes our daughter should be bathed more than once a week, and, as always Darcy’s bath time neatly coincides with a time sensitive issue. Sometimes it’s my deep and overwhelming need to fall asleep as quickly as possible before I start crying. At others it’s my ability to rush to the toilet and remain there for a good thirty minutes that’s hampered. On this particular evening however Darcy’s bath coincided with the aforementioned date my wife and were hoping to enjoy and for which we were, a usual, running about thirty minutes late.
I love Laura, I really do, and she has many wonderful qualities not the least of which is her ability to tolerate me on a regular basis but my wife is temporally impaired. Laura is aware of time in much the same way that I’m aware the workings of an internal combustion engine. I’m aware of their existence and even understand on a very broad level how they work and, much like my wife’s relationship with time, don’t give it much thought until I’m running a few minutes late
I firmly believe that part of my wife’s problem is optimism. She believes that she can accomplish just about any task within a relatively small window of time.
Ten minutes before she needs to be in the car to go to work or drop Darcy off at school Laura will begin organizing our tax records, decide to clean up the basement or embark on any other project with a time horizon that’s measured in hours if not days or weeks. As someone who’s been taught from birth that timeliness is of the utmost importance (rumor has it that my mother’s OB had me induced per my request) I find my wife’s tendency towards lateness to be mildly upsetting.
Over the years I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m going to be a good fifteen or twenty minutes late if I expect to have my wife in tow. That’s really not true. I’ve never really made peace with the fact that upon being married I’d agreed to be a half an hour late to everything but, around the time I realized that nagging Laura to be one time was a remarkably fruitless effort and one that just made both of us miserable we had a child.
On one hand having a daughter changed my entire mindset about arriving on time. It made me a more patient and understanding father and husband. On the other hand (the right hand and not what has been historically known as the ‘evil’ or left hand) having a daughter did none of these things. In fact Darcy simply adds to my frustration in this regard as well as my level of stress, number of facial tics and drastically reduced life expectancy. Small children, perhaps children of any size and age, don’t have much of a sense of urgency when it doesn’t directly effect their wellbeing and Darcy is no exception.
It is in this setting that our date night began or, more specifically, hadn’t begun. Laura was doing whatever it is that women do in the bathroom for thirty minutes when they’re already thirty minutes late. I had bathed Darcy and was attempting to coax her into a pair of pajamas which is about as fun as shaving a cat. I’ve always likened putting pants on an unwilling child as being akin to forcing a cat into a pair of tights but it’s not. Cats are easier to dress. They also have a much longer attention span than a four year old. As a side note, and for those of you who are less than intuitive, I really don’t like cats.
It was around the fifth or sixth time I asked my daughter to stop hopping around our bed like a kangaroo on acid and put on her pajamas when I heard a class three shriek from the bathroom. There are five levels of shrieks in my household; level one being an “I’ll get to that when I’m done with the dishes” and a level five implying that I should leave the home at a dead run with my daughter in tow and anything I else I hold dear.
“Darcy I need to go check on mama,” I said, “when I get back I want you to have your pajamas on. Understand?”
Darcy said she understood and I went off to tend to my wife knowing full well that the Polish cavalry had better odds of defeating a horde of German Panzers than I did of returning to find my daughter dressed and ready for bed.
I entered the bathroom to find Laura in a cloud of steam and looking really pissed off.
“My hair is not cooperating,” Laura said as she brandished a hairbrush and a fistful of hair.
After being married for over a decade I’ve come to understand that this was one of those situations in which neither my commentary nor my person were wanted. Of course I may have also intuited all of those things by the way my wife tried to stab me with a hairbrush. Now that I think about it the reason why I left the bathroom isn’t important. I left and returned to the bedroom to find Darcy giggling hysterically and hopping around the bed with both feet in one pant leg.
“Look daddy,” she said, “I’m a mermaid.”
“Darcy put on your…” I began to instruct my daughter to put on her pants for the seventh time and noted that we were now forty five minutes late when I was interrupted by a level four scream from the bathroom.
“AAAAARRRRGHHHH!!!” I heard from the bathroom and I thought, briefly, that my wife had become so enraged by her hair that she’d turned into The Hulk. Call me an idiot but even after ten years of marriage I still rush to the aid of my wife even though I’m aware that my help is not necessary or even desired. I blame genetics for this particular fault. And my mother. I always blame my mother and I urge you to do the same.
Instead of brandishing her hairbrush when I entered the bathroom Laura actually lunged at me,and had even whittled the handle of the hairbrush down to a shiv in anticipation of my response. Then again her stabby demeanor may have had something to do with the fact that I mentioned that we were now a full forty five minutes late for our reservation. I shut the door quickly and returned to the bedroom to find that my daughter had vanished.
“He he he,” I heard a giggle from under the bed and sadly my first thought wasn’t “where is my daughter?” because I knew that she was under the bed. Instead I and remembered that I hadn’t vacuumed underneath the bed since we’d first moved into the house about ten years ago. This thought was immediately accompanied by the understanding that my daughter was probably covered in all sorts of filth (dust bunnies the size of feral hogs, a piece of bread that has grown legs and a colony of sentient mold, perhaps a used condom or two from the time one of my buddies stayed in our house with his girlfriend and maybe a ruffie or two) that usually has the decency to remain hidden until a four year old drags it into the light of day.
“Darcy get out from under the bed,” I pleaded. Darcy giggled. I repeated my request, this time a bit louder which didn’t do anything but prompt my giggles. I heard some muttered cursing from the bathroom indicating an impending level five event which only increased my motivation to dress my daughter.
“Darcy,” I said as sternly as I could manage, ” get out from under that bed or I’m going to start counting.”
Surprisingly counting to three has proven to be remarkably effective when I’m trying to get my daughter to put on her pants, get in her carseat, perform or stop performing any activity. I usually have to get to the number “2” before the desired outcome takes place but, more often than not, Darcy does (or doesn’t) do what I’m asking and I don’t have to follow through with an unspoken and thereby more terrifying consequence. That’s the key to the count really. A stern look, perhaps even a lunge and the threat of an unknown consequence is all it usually takes to get Darcy to stop jamming a fork into an electrical socket, staring at a bottle of Windex like it’s a frosty beverage or crawl out from underneath a bed and put on a pair of fucking pants.
Unfortunately the act of counting down to an unspecified consequence works too well at times. Darcy scooted out from under the bed a Mach 12, rocketed to her feet and feel promptly and headfirst into a wall.
At the same time my daughter was greeting the wall with her head my wife gave an earth shattering roar from the bathroom which, once I was halfway into the hall, I had the presence of mind to ignore. I returned to the bedroom to find that Darcy recovered from her recent head wound and was cheerfully jumping up and down on the bed with both feet still in one pantleg. I briefly considered the cost of booking a flight to Yemen, Afghanistan or some other less stressful environment and by “cost” I mean mean both the financial one as well as the term’s implications for the duration of my marriage.
“Darcy,” I said and raised one quaking finger, “put on your pants right now or I will take every one of you’re My Little Ponies and pull off their heads.”
“Daddy,” my daughter whispered, “I want to tell you something.”
“Darcy put on your pants or I will…”
“Daddy, daddy,” she said and put her index finger on my lips, “I just want to tell you something.”
“What is it sweetie?” I asked expecting, even hoping for an ‘I love you’, some term of endearment or maybe an apology.
“I LOVE BEING A MERMAID!” my daughter screamed directly into my ear and that is when I lost my shit.
I know, I know. I should live in the moment and appreciate the fact that it’s incredibly cute that my daughter pretends she’s a mermaid by stuffing two feet into a one pant leg. I’m an asshole and, for the most part, I’ve made peace with that fact. I didn’t yell. i didn’t scream. My face may have turned purple. I may have started weeping blood. Honestly I’m not really sure what happened but Darcy knew that I was done and shit was about to get real unpleasant real fast.
“Daddy,” she said with her index finger still over my mouth, “just breathe.”
I wouldn’t have been more surprised to find my head sewn to the carpet to paraphrase Chevy Chase. Laura and I have been using the “calm down and breathe” technique with Darcy for the past few months. My daughter tends to go from 0 to a 450 mile per hour freak out when she can’t zip up her coat or find her stuffed bunny before bedtime and having her take a deep breath has proven to be a remarkably effective technique and one that has, apparently, made an impression.
I chuckled and gave Darcy a hug, a big hug. I told her that she was right, that I needed to breathe.
“You’re a very bright girl Darcy,” I said.
“I know,” she responded.
“Now please put your pants honey,” I said.
“Daddy can I tell you something?” she asked and I told her that, of course she can always tell me anything.
“I want mama to dress me,” she whispered.
I heard a bunch of clanks and clinks in the bathroom and a few mutters that implied The Hulk’s arrival was imminent. I noted that we were now a good fifty minutes late for a reservation in a restaurant with no availability until one in the morning and decided to embrace the madness.
“Darcy why don’t you wait for Mama,” I said, “do not go into the bathroom,” I mentioned as an afterthought. I turned on the television so my daughter would have something to occupy herself and went outside to imagine that I was having a cigarette. I took a deep breath and then another. I thought about grabbing a beer once I went back inside to sit on the couch and watch some TV, work on my book or give the basement a thorough cleaning, really anything that would be marginally more rewarding than dressing my daughter and avoiding the bathroom.
Events continued to unfold upstairs. I cracked open a beer and proceeded to write the post you are now reading knowing that, at the very worst, Laura and I would be able to get a seat at the bar around eleven or so when our daughter was finally dressed for bed and safe in the knowledge that, no matter how much I had to drink over the next four hours, Laura would be driving.