It starts early in the evening, like a slow drip from a faucet. The requests, the questions, the “problems” and the manipulations. Then, the slow drip progresses swiftly to a flash flood. Rapid-fire requests, complex questions with a degree of difficulty rivaling an SAT, major issues requiring immediate attention and even more requests on top of more and more questions.
Then, the tactics.
In what must have been taken straight from a CIA field manual, mental warfare is thrown at me in wave upon wave the end result being my head feeling like it was pelted with snowballs filled with ice cubes.
Finally, shock and awe: A multi-layered question that includes bullet-points, multiple requests, negotiating that would make a Senate subcommittee proud and profound mood swings with every response I can offer up.
The aforementioned scenario comes to you nightly, courtesy of my four year-old daughter, Demando.
Never to be outdone, allow me to introduce my nearly one year-old daughter, Commando. This little peapod of strength, determination and firepower actually scares me. If they had a baby version of Navy Seals, she’d be their commander.
So if you’re scoring at home, we’re talking Demando and Commando.
In the case of Demando, I’ve contacted the Guinness Book of World Records to see what the record is for most questions asked within a 60-second period. If the record exists, I have absolutely no doubt Demando will blow them out of the water.
Of course I should have seen this coming years ago.
I have three sisters-in-law. One of them has two daughters, now aged 16 and 18. When the girls were little they’d ask their mother multiple, rapid-fire questions that sent anyone in the immediate area to the medicine cabinet for Excedrin. The plethora of questions made you want to run outside in the street and play kickball with oncoming traffic.
What was worse, however, was their mother.
She would sit there and pretend she didn’t hear the questions. I’d look at my wife, practically begging her with my eyes to step in and stop the madness. No relief ever came. Those girls would stand there, almost shouting, and say, “MOMMY, MOMMY, MOMMY, MOMMY . . .” Thinking back on it right now I’m breaking into a sweat.
We would have given anything for her simply to field their questions. But it never happened. She’d sit there, seemingly oblivious, and wait them out. Eventually, she answered them but it was on her terms and when she decided to acknowledge them.
Now, years later, I understand what she was doing. The madness inflicted on all of us, so many years ago, was hardly intentional. There was indeed a method to what she was doing.
Now, and only now, do I realize she was employing one of the techniques used to combat EQS . . . Endless Question Syndrome.
A quick check on various medical websites explains EQS as something existing within every child straight from birth. It slowly matures, reaching its most terrifying magnitude at age four and extending out through age five. Allegedly, once the child turns five the EQS begins to level off. It did with my two nieces; perhaps it will with Demando as well. One can hope.
In fact as I sit here typing right now, she’s sitting in my lap. Over the past 60 seconds she has asked:
What am I typing…
What should she name her stuffed lamb…
Why is the office colder than the rest of the house…
What did I do when I left home earlier today…
Why did I bring Mexican food home for dinner…
Why can’t she have a real cell phone…
Why do squirrels run up and down our driveway…
And these questions are merely the opening act to what lies ahead later in the evening.
It’s not just that she can devastate you with questions. She can fool you into talking to yourself with the kinds of manipulations and flip-flopping of situations she cleverly creates.
The other night she was playing with one of her favorite stuffed animals: Her cow. The whole time, there she was carrying on a conversation with the little cow. Every second of it was adorable. Being that it was nearing bed-time I decided to jump in. She said, “um, Daddy, you didn’t say ‘excuse me.'” She had me on that one, remembering the lesson my wife and I always try to teach her about not interrupting. So, saying “excuse me” and holding the cow to my ear, I added “OH, hold on a second . . . wait a minute . . . your cow just said it’s time for bed!”
She looked me straight in the eyes and without any hesitation at all said, “Daddy, the cow isn’t real you know. She can’t really talk.”
Where do you go with that? Demando just put Daddy in a box.
Meanwhile this entire time I’ve been typing, holding Demando and fielding questions, I can hear Commando upstairs with my wife. It might as well be combat maneuvers.
There is nothing subtle about Commando. Ever. Although absolutely charming, beautiful and funny like her sister, where Demando sits back and analyzes a situation, Commando dives in like a shark on a feeding frenzy.
I had to go and see my doctor today because my right bicep had been hurting a great deal for about two weeks now. After determining there’s a slight ligament strain, he asked if I had over-extended myself lifting weights, doing some work around the house or if the arm had taken a blow of some kind. It was at that moment I realized my ligament strain was at the hands . . . rather, the leg of Commando.
Enter the Dragon
Since the moment she was born, she has always loved to kick. And I don’t mean kicking like most babies kick. No, I mean KICK, as in the kind of kick you receive sparring in a Tae Kwon Do school. This child can inflict the kind of pain with her legs I imagine pro football players feel after a game. But do remember, she’s a baby. She always does it with a smile.
Babies tend to flail their arms around, looking oh-so-adorable. If you get caught by a flailing left hook or a right cross from Commando, you’re goin’ down, and I mean to tell you you’re goin’ down hard.
For the unsuspecting visitor, she looks like a jellyfish in the ocean. Commando lures you into her little world of terror with her warm smile and deep, disarming brown eyes. You inch closer to her, smiling right back as you attempt to give her a little squeeze on the shoulder. It’s just at that moment she annihilates you, first with a blow to the face and then with a kick to the chest.
And it doesn’t stop there.
If you don’t move away, she’ll go after you even more. It’s the great boxer trying to put his opponent through the ropes after he’s already dazed him with a flurry of punches.
Babies and the discus
We have a toy clock that weighs about one pound. If you wind it up, it plays Hickory Dickory Dock. Commando saw it on the floor the other day, grabbed it with her right hand, swung her arm backwards with a sweeping motion and proceeded to launch the clock approximately 10 feet in the air. My wife and I sat there in stunned silence while Commando laughed. Demando began asking us questions like a team of reporters at a news conference. It was as if the two of them staged the “event” as something of a warning shot.
A teeny-tiny Demando-Commando warning shot filled with love that said “I hope the two of you know and understand that WE run this house. WE are in control. WE RULE!”
My birthday is coming. I’ve asked for noise reduction headphones.
About the Author: Christopher Gabriel is the host of the cleverly named Christopher Gabriel Program on AM 970 WDAY in Fargo, North Dakota. You can hear him weekdays from 9 to Noon. As a writer and humorist, his work has been been published online by the Chicago Sun-Times, Reuters and publications within the Sun-Times News Group.