I think one of the biggest problems in my relationship with my daughter Izzie is that I keep treating her like a five- or six-year-old, expecting an older child’s level of understanding, emoting and behavioural control. Why? Because she’s too damn smart for a three-year-old.
Take yesterday, for example. She was sitting in the kitchen, drawing with her mummy, granny and sister, when I came in, sat down, and started chatting. After a few minutes, she said, ‘Daddy, you haven’t read much of your book today.’
‘No, I haven’t,’ I said. ‘I thought I’d sit in here with you.’
‘Well, I know you want to read your book, so why don’t you go and read your book? We’ll be okay.’
‘Daddy. It’s starting to get dark. You should read your book now.’
‘You really want me to read my book?’
‘Okay,’ I said. ‘See you in a bit.’
‘Okay, daddy, bye bye.’
I got up, walked out of the room, and then heard her say to the others, ‘Ah. Nice and quiet.’
And they all burst out laughing.
I raced back in. ‘Hang on,’ I said. ‘Were you trying to get rid of me?’
Izzie gave me an apologetic look and said, ‘You just talk so much, daddy.’
Oh my gosh. Instead of telling me to be quiet or go away or any of the other things you might expect a three-year-old to say, she used subtlety and subterfuge to remove me, playing on my own desires and interests to get what she wanted. I’d like to think it was about sparing my feelings – it’s an improvement on a month ago when she said, ‘Daddy, daddy, stop talking, I’m just not interested’ – but I’m pretty sure she was simply sharpening her manipulative wiles for the future.
A couple of days ago, she showed another keen eye for social interaction. I have to admit that, despite writing on this very blog that you shouldn’t shout at kids because they won’t listen to you, I haven’t been following my own advice. Lately, Izzie has been very disobedient, or, to quote the ladies at nursery, ‘not using her listening ears’ – basically completely ignoring the authority figure and doing what she wants. And I have doubled down on the shouting because she’s testing every boundary, and getting on every last nerve of every person she meets.
So the other day she was in the bath, throwing water all over me, and I told her to stop. And I told her to stop. And then I shouted at her to stop or I would get her out of the bath and make her sit on the naughty step.
‘Daddy,’ she snapped. ‘When I’m being naughty, treat me like I’m not being naughty.’
I stopped. ‘Huh? You mean let you do whatever you want?’
‘No, talk to me like you talk to me when I’m not naughty.’
‘You mean, don’t shout?’
‘Yes, daddy. Don’t shout at me when I’m naughty.’
‘I don’t listen when you shout. So I keep being naughty.’
‘Oh. So if I speak in a normal voice, you’ll listen to me when I tell you to stop?’
‘Okay.’ I thought a moment. ‘Let’s make a deal then. From now on, I’ll speak to you in a normal voice when you’re being naughty. But you have to listen when I do, and do what I say.’
‘Okay,’ she said. ‘We’ll do that. High five.’
So we high-fived on it. And at least one of us is upholding his side of the bargain…
But here is my question. If she’s that freaking smart that she’s a nursery room lawyer and can wind everyone in her life around her little finger at just three years of age, how come I have to check under the bed for dinosaurs every night?