My daughter was pretending her animal figurines were lively dinosaurs roaring at each other. I sat next to her, and the energy felt contagious when I saw her enthusiastically roaring. I growled, and the sound surprised and scared her. She turned around, screamed at me, and, unable to quickly decide whether I was a friend or a foe, she punched me in the face.
In response, I laughed hard because I knew she didn’t mean to, she didn’t hit me hard, and I could witness the unconscious, flinching reaction play out from her mind to her fist.
She laughed when she realized it was just silly old daddy, not a tyrannosaurus rex about to munch on her head.
I have been punched so much by toddlers since they were babies that a gentle nudge in the face out of reaction is hilarious.
If you are expecting kids, here is one thing no book covers; your own flesh and bones will physically abuse the shit out of you. Expect at least one to two uppercuts a day. If you already have kids, then you are just nodding your head.
Some of these hits will come out of the blue, and some will happen as the result of tantrums and nuclear meltdowns.
That’s why there are so many pictures of kids on milk cartons. Because picking up a kid against their will and kidnapping them looks exactly the same.
And as parents we have become desensitized to it.
We have been far too many times in the same situation, and more importantly, we are delighted that it is not our kid throwing a tantrum.
The other night, while playing princess, my daughter was knighting everything around her with a plastic scepter. The scepter is plastic but made to look like solid white gold with a giant purple gem in the middle.
We let her play while we were getting her sister ready for bed. I squatted to pick up some books from her sister’s library, and that’s when my daughter knighted me. In one second, I became the dad who got hit on the head and simultaneously threw his back out and got a headache.
My daughters have strong arms. It doesn’t come from me; I have squiggly, wiry arms. It must be all that sheep milking their Irish ancestors did. If my daughter had an axe instead of a scepter, she could’ve split lumber in two.
I was furious, but since I had kids, my range of motion for my display of frustration has become much more limited.
So I couldn’t curse, I also couldn’t punch walls or even fully throw a door to express my frustration with getting hit right in the melon.
So I got up, took some deep breaths, and walked out of the room and into my room.
I wanted to throw the door, but I just firmly shut it against its frame on the last inch.
“That will show them I’m upset!!!”
I sat on the floor to take deep breaths and heard my daughter loudly crying.
I felt weirdly comforted by the fact that she didn’t hit me in the head and laughed about it; that she was experiencing guilt, remorse, or shame at her almost-parricide.
I came out of the room to have a conversation with her. I tried to comfort her even though I was the one who had been brutally attacked by a royal; not only did my head hurt, but I didn’t feel great that I was a peasant in this make-believe scenario.
When I got down on my knees to tell her I knew she was good inside, that I was okay, and that this couldn’t happen again, she said to me with tears running down her face, “You broke my toy!”
As it turns out, my daughter wasn’t crying because she almost ended my existence but because in the process of knocking my lights out, my hard, full-of-air head broke her plastic scepter, and a piece of it was still hanging in my hair.
I am inclined to believe that this would not have happened to a daddy T. Rex.