Just filled up my fourth cup-of-joe. It’s a nice and quiet Sunday afternoon as I walk around the corner to the family’s den just to see my 4-year-old daughter mid-motion with her only-week-old 100-piece puzzle box set hoisted over her head and with a scream from a place only a 4-year-old knows, flung it to the ground in exasperation.
And was about to stomp on it when she caught me in her periphery.
She knows that her mother and I disapprove of that behavior especially if we’re running from problems.
We look at each other.
Silence (except for my occasional sip of coffee)
She, sniffling turns to pick up her mess.
Me, I sit on my favorite leather recliner with ottoman set in the den across from her.
The sniffling and forceful throwing of pieces back in the box only to bounce out again(repeatedly) routine now seemed distant as I glance around my den. How did we raise three kids through this same den and it not be wrecked?
Oh yeah, the sign!
“Honey” I sang.
She looks up at me.
“Did you think about the sign?”
Lowering her gaze and then her head, she pouted and pushed out “No”
Her arms crossed now.
“o-kay. But what does it say. What does the sign say sweetie?”
She knows it by heart we sing it every night before we go to sleep.
Rocking from side to side her lips move “….” Indistinguishable whispers.
“Anna, don’t speak with the air in your mouth. Remember when speaking with me you speak with the air from your stomach but since you’re upset, speaking from the air in your lungs will do ok honey?”
“What does the sign say.”
She faces me so she could speak from her lungs.
Her shoulders are squared. Check.
She’s taking her time. Check.
She just took her breath.
And still sniffling but composed, recites, “Every problem has a solution.”
Her problem is that she’s smart and she knows it. I don’t even know how that’s possible! But I play on her desire to be the one up on everybody else…
“Hey, do you wanna know something I’ve never told anyone else?”
Still sniffling, “Depends. What is it?”
“It’s…” ohh she almost got me to tell her. Told you she’s smart!
“It’s THE c-o-d-e-d version of the sign.” I put my coffee down. Using air-quote-hand-signs is a must with her, it reveals a secret is coming.
She looks around and curls up like she’s hiding behind a trench coat. I think back to Carmen San Diego. She tip-toes to me.
I remind her “this time you MUST speak from the air in your mouth.”
She agrees and sits on the leather ottoman then leans closer whispering, “What is it daddy?”
Smiling, I whisper back, “This will help you beat the puzzle game.” I put two thumbs up.
Her eyes widen but I interrupt her excitement.
She looks around one more time, shakes her head and cups her ear.
“Honey I have to show you and tell you at the same time. So, you have to pay close attention. The code is in what you see and hear.”
Now she’s excited! She pushes the ottoman back a little so she can see me better.
I begin with my hands clasped in front of my chest like in prayer and while slowly separating them apart from each other I say, “The more time you stay on something…”
When my hands align with my shoulders I clench my fists, flex my biceps and gruntingly say, “using your best try…”
I then extend my two index fingers and begin poking at both my temples saying, “the smarter you get.”
Then I pass my fingers down pass the corner of my mouth to my chin area while beginning to frown mumbling, “Whether you fail” Bringing my fingers back up pass the corners of my mouth and smiling, “or Succeed,”
“The more time you stay on something, using your best try, the smarter you get. Fail or Succeed.”
Anna’s just staring. I think I broke her.
She blinked that’s a good thing…right??
“And by the way honey, I’m so proud that you’re trying to complete the puzzle.”
She’s still silent.
I lean back slowly, like how I envision enlightened ones move, raising my finger to my mouth at the same rate. I extend my finger across my lips and breathed, “shhh”
She mimics me then spins around on the ottoman to face her wreckage.
I see her miming the code like she’s trying to remember it.
Something must’ve clicked because she picks up the puzzle pieces and places them on the coffee table. Kneels down and begins to try her puzzle again.
I settle back further in my chair from that stellar Dad-Of-The-Year performance and contemplate the meaning of life’s complexities…like…
I don’t care a much about ‘where’ but ‘who’ is Carmen San Diego?
She walked in and out of my life with that mysterious hat always covering one eye. Was she illuminati? If these aren’t the important questions of life what is?!
Aaaand I’m daydreaming…zzzzz
“Anna stop drinking my coffee!!!” giggling she runs away.
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