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On Tuesday, we sleep in. I don’t have to be at work until noon. 8:30 rolls around, and Ruthie calls me into her room.

“Mommy,” she says sweetly. “Can I watch a show?”

“Let’s cuddle first,” I suggest, scootching into bed beside her. “Your legs are cold.”

“Be my puppy!” she says.

“Woof!” I say.

“Awww. Good puppy.” She scratches under my chin. And we’re off.

***

I am a baby, and Ruthie is my mama. I am put down to nap on the trampoline, covered with a blanket, and given Giwaffe, the Very Special Giraffe. “Okay, baby! I gotta go to work now, okay? Don’t cwy!” She leaves the room and hides in the hallway. I cry anyway, as expected, and in she runs again to pat my head. “Itso-kay, baby. I’m back.”

Five minutes later, I am not a baby anymore. I am a dinosaur. I give horseback (dinosaur-back?) rides around the house until I turn vicious, buck my rider, and shriek like the dangerous creature that I am. I am a tickle dinosaur of the most vicious sort.

***

She sits on the toilet and I kneel in front of her. “Tell me a Benji story,” she begs. “A Benji story, pweeeeaaaaaase.”

“Okay, okay. Do you want the one about when Benji thought he saw a ghost in the woods?”

“YEAH!”

“Well, one day, Benji the Butterfly’s mom asked if he wanted to fly through the woods to go visit his grandma…”

***

In the car. Daycare is a forty-minute drive from home.

“Be my puppy in the car!” she insists.

“Woof, woof!”

“You wanna Milkbone, puppy?”

“Woof!”

“Here!” She throws an imaginary dog treat to the front seat. I catch it and gobble it up.

“Want another?”

“Woof!”

“Oh, we’re all out! But if you’re good, Santa will bwing you one on Chwistmas. Okay, puppy?”

I whine and whimper until she gasps and holds up her hand.

“Oh, wait! I found another one! Here, puppy!”

***

I pick her up from daycare at 3 in the afternoon. I try to get her to listen to the radio on the way home, but she is disinterested. “Be my puppy again. Pwease be my puppy?”

***

Before dinner, we color for a while. Ruthie has a tall notepad of different colored squares of paper, and she fills each one with as much color as possible. “These are bugs,” she says, pointing to the many-legged creatures scrambling across her pink square. “And this is a waterfall.” This is a ladybug, that’s an ant, this is a mean face. Here is a stick. Look! Lots of bugs!

***

Ruthie’s dollhouse is home to two bunnies and three penguins. They have a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, a piano, and a desk. They spend most of their time eating cornbread, which Ruthie makes by stirring a tiny little whisk around a tiny little bowl and asking the inhabitants of the house: “BUNNIES AND PENGUINS! DO YOU LIKE CORN-BWEAD? DO? YOU? LIKE? CORNBWEAD?!”

Today I am obligated to be the voice of the bunnies and penguins as they get ready for their baths. When she can’t find the tiny soap, she falls into my arms and cries for a moment or two. She is consolable, though. She can always be consoled by Diego.

***

“MOMMY!” she shouts from the living room while I cook in the kitchen. “MOMMY! DIEGO! DIEGO IS! DIEGO IS! DIEGO IS TRYING TO HELP THE BABY POLAR BEARS!”

“I hope he helps them!” I say as I slice potatoes into boiling water.

Before I realize it, she is standing beside me, staring up at me. “Mommy. Diego needs to help those polar bears.” Her lips are stern and serious. The concern on her face is intense.

“I know he’s going to help them. You go watch and tell me what happens?”

Later, during dinner, she recounts the story of Diego and the polar bears to her dad.

***

I get a break at bathtime. I can hear her in the bathroom with her dad. I know the game they are playing: he holds a rubber ducky in his hand and floats in beside her, quacking quietly. Then, SNAP! She grabs the ducky like a crocodile and pulls it under water, screaming. He makes screeching duck sounds and she laughs in hysterics as the duck convulses underwater, desperate to escape her grasp. Stupid duck, she must think. He’s gonna come right back over here as soon as he gets away, and I’ll catch him all over again. What do you know? She’s right.

***

At bedtime, Ruthie squeezes me hard and says, “I’m gonna squeeze you! I’m gonna poop your pants!” We don’t know where this one comes from, but she does it nightly, sometime between her bath and her stories. We’d discourage it, except that it’s so funny to watch her squeeze her tiny little arms around us and grunt, then say with faked surprise and total satisfaction, “I pooped your pants! I squeezed you so hard I pooped your pants! HA HA!”

We take turns reading her stories. I read first–Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems. She gets riled up and shouts at that troublemaking pigeon that, “NO YOU CAN’T RIDE THE BUS, PIGEON!” Then her dad takes over, and he reads five pages of The Little Mermaid. She begs for five more. He gives in.

After a day of living in both the real world and the imaginary one she tries all day to pull us into, Ruthie falls asleep on her pillow with Giwaffe in her arms. I sneak back in after she’s asleep to adjust and give her the covers.

See you in the morning, puppy.

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