OK, let’s get the disclaimer out of the way early: Mental illness is no laughing matter. My guess is all of us have known someone who has dealt with a mental disorder on some level. And mental illness comes in varying degrees of extreme. There are your Grade A-Level split personalities that really need constant care, and there are those who claim that Zorgog from Planet X-43 speaks to them in trances every half moon. It’s really all over the place.
And if you have small children you have probably had a first-hand experience in how quickly they can erode your mental stability.
Sure, kids are great. But let’s face it, they can drive you crazy. Especially now, when, as I am trying to write this, my older daughter, Maddo, keeps wanting me to peel stickers out of a Strawberry Shortcake book I just got her and her sibling, Little Sis, has decided this would be the perfect time to her to start climbing over me on the sofa. Oh, and they both kept up a chorus of “DADDY! CAN I HAVE SOME MORE CAP’N CRUNCH?” loud enough to wake not just the dead, but “The Walking Dead”, too…Which, I wasn’t able to watch, anyway, because Maddo must have her 14 hours of Disney Jr. TV shows on every day. Anytime I try to turn anything else on, I get the standard kid conversation:
Maddo: “But DAAAA-DEEEEE! We NEEEEEEE-VER watch DISNEY JR!”
Me: “Really? You want to know what we NEEEEEEE-VER really EVVVVVVV-ER get to watch? “The Simpsons”. “Archer”. “Shameless”. That documentary about the Rolling Stones on HBO. “The Mentalist”. “Zero Dark Thirty”. And, yes, “The Walking Dead,” too!”
So my kids break me mentally to the point where I try blind reasoning with them, only to finally give in and put on the eleventy-bazillionth episode of “Jake and the Neverland Pirates”, then get them some more Cap’n Crunch. Of course, I can’t argue with the cereal as Cap’n Crunch is awesome.
Sometimes, I even lose track of my identity. Maddo helped this along the other morning when she began telling me, again and again, and with one of those crazy pre-school-age laughs that only pre-schoolers have, just what I was.
It started when we were driving to our local Home Depot. From the backseat, I heard Maddo speak up:
“Daddy? YOU’RE A DIAPER!”
“And YOU’RE A FROG!”
“You don’t say?”
She wasn’t done in the slightest. By the time we got back home, Maddo had decided I was also:
A tick tock croc.
A silly pants.
A peanut butter sandwich.
Gooby Gooby (No idea what this meant).
A garbage can.
A turkey sandwich.
A ducky diaper.
A tickle monster.
This went on for most of the morning. By lunchtime, I felt like my personality had been split so many times that I made the Jimmy character in The Who’s great concept album “Quadrophenia” seem like he was as a paragon of mental stability.
[OK, you might not be familiar with the reference. But really…You can never go wrong with the songs of Pete Townshend. Just watch and listen to “5:15”, for instance.]
Eventually, Maddo got around to calling me “Daddy”. And there’s no point in denying that nothing beats hearing your daughter calling you that. When Maddo was born, I was the first person to touch and hold her. And when she calls me “Daddy”, it let’s me know that I am, and always will be No. 1 in her eyes.
And then she called me a “Toilet Prince.”
I’m not sure what that last one says about my identity. But when you’re dealing with a four year old, maybe that says it all?