Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Daddy, I Don’t Feel So Good

There are many responsibilities that I volunteered for when I made the decision to be a dad.  I have the confidence that I can protect my daughters from bullies in school.  Any dates that my daughters bring home will go through me.  I have to make sure that they both receive the best education and learn life’s lessons so that they can succeed as adults.  I can cook for them, do their laundry, and love spending time with them any chance that I get.

Prior to their adoptions, Wendy and I were dealing with a medical issue in the Emergency Room of our local hospital for an allergic reaction to an antibiotic.  It was fairly quiet that evening.  But that was about to change.  A gurney rushed by our room.  On it was a small girl with her father by her side.  I am not sure what was wrong, but within moments, I would find out how in spite of everything that I had been planning for in our pending adoption, there was one thing I was not prepared for in fatherhood.

No sooner had a resident passed my room, I heard a curtain being drawn shut.  And then, “DADDYYYYYY!  NOOOOO!!!  THEY’RE HURTING ME!!!!  MAKE THEM STOP!!!!  DON’T LET THEM DO THIS TO ME!!!  HELP ME DADDYYYYYY!!!  This poor child, screaming at the top of her lungs in hysterics for protection by her father.  I have no idea what was being done, but could have been something as simple as a blood draw.  In any case, something immediately hit me, “my God, I am not prepared to hear my child scream in blood terror and hysterics and pain.”

Fortunately, in our eight years with each other, niether Madison or Emmalie have really ever tested my ability to tolerate that level of drama.  I am lucky that both of our daughters rarely get sick, and in general do not complain about pain or discomfort.  We credit this to a decision that we made a long time ago, to let our children tell us when they were not feeling well.  If either fell, we were not going to be the ones fussing over them telling them that they must be hurting.  We let them tell us.  Even with colds and sinus infections, or worse, we usually have no idea when it is too much for them until obvious behaviors become evident.  Emmalie does not talk much when she is not feeling well.  This is in stark contrast to her usually energy level.  Also, she does not do without asking for at least a snack every hour.  Madison is the same way when it comes to food, but instead of a talking issue, Madison does not socialize as much when she is not feeling well.

So when it comes that we actually hear, “my belly hurts”, in general, we have no reason to think otherwise that something is wrong, and usually there is.  However, Wendy and I have discovered that both girls have a very keen ability to manipulate, not just us, but others around them.  They know how to play Wendy and I against each other, or other relatives against us.  Madison is smart enough to realize what needs to happen in order to be diagnosed as sick.  It has happened once or twice that Madison has pulled this drama on unsuspecting victims only to be revealed by me as “father knows best”.  Originally I can come off as an uncaring ogre, but as I blow the whistle, and she realizes that her cover has been exposed, she switches over to damage control.  When she realizes that she cannot continue to function in her day as “business as usual” because of her sickness, and the day is not going to go as planned, she has occasionally come to the conclusion, she needs what medicine cannot provide, a miracle.

I love telling the story of one of her most powerful abilities which if she is within earshot, you will never see a child’s grin any greater and sincere.  One evening sitting at the dinner table, Madison leads the discussion with a request for an iguana for a pet, no warning or reason offered.  Now, I am an animal lover.  I prefer dogs, but all animals are welcome in our house.  But our house is not to be confused as some sort of zoo or wildlife refuge.  So, since our animal population is already fairly high, it was really quite easy to say “no” as I am easily able to do.  Madison and Emmalie both often refer to me as the “NO Daddy” as for no reason at all, the majority of the time, when asked for something materialistic in nature, I will say no.  My attitude is better to surprise them with a “yes” than disappoint them with a “no”  For instance, I do not always carry quarters in my pocket and stores insist of having those impulse toy and candy dispensers at the exits of the store.  I generally say “no”, and this way there is no issue, but when I say “yes”, they are definitely surprised.

And so, I proceed to punctuate Madison’s request with a period in the form of “no”.  Of course the conversation went to the “why not” and then alternative lizards and such, all of which ended with the same result, “no”.  Realizing that I was putting up much more of a difficult resistance than she had planned, she resorted to a new level of attack, drama.  Wendy and I have been lucky in that neither girls have really ever thrown a tantrum at home or in public.  This was always something that I dreaded happening, because simply, if I am out with Wendy without the kids, the last thing I want is to hear someone else’s.  But Madison decided that she wanted the iguana turned chameleon turned turtle bad enough that she now had to pull out all the stops.

Her look changed from very innocent to one of disappointment.  Which then changed to anxiety as she could tell my answer was firm, and Mommy was not jumping in to help her out.  Still having no effect on changing our minds, her face muscles clearly got tense and began to flex.  She looked like she was getting angry.  Just seconds later her face started to swell and  I could tell what was about to happen.  Her eyes started to well up, and then it happened, the first tear fell.  This was going to finally get Wendy to cave in as I was still holding my ground.  I just kept hoping to myself that Wendy would hold out, just give it a minute or two, and Madison will stop and give in.  To my surprise, Wendy was not responding as immediately as I thought she would.  Then we saw just how smart and talented our oldest daughter truly is.  With tears now streaming out of her eyes full force, she then bursts into laughter.  Wendy and I have confirmed it, that Madison is the queen of manipulation.

So I gave her recognition and admiration for the level of skill and performance that someone of her age should have accomplished.  Her response?  “That’s not all I can do”.  This was two years ago when Madison was seven years ago.  We cannot underestimate either girl in what they are capable of accomplishing, but then again, I could not be any more proud of how smart they are.  I still have time to prepare, but I think in the long run, daddy’s little girl will eventually prevail.

Today, Madison is home from school sick, complaints of stomach discomfort and nausea.  Yesterday and the day before, Emmy was home from school for the exact same thing, only provided the proof.  Though clearly not a fun day in the house today, because I am taking care of her in her time of illness, if she is playing me, she knows that she has not put enough thought into it.  On the other hand, if I am wrong, then I should be glad I am not having to clean anything up or off.  That would be another and different adventure and blog.

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