How my life became a Fellini film – in a good way

In January, Lily became obsessed with a new, blue plunger (which she called a “bup”) that we bought at the hardware store, and she plunged her way down the sidewalk to the nearby library while carrying a paper gift bag on the other arm.

In March, she went to daycare one morning looking like a toddler version of Flava Flav, wearing a hat with ear flaps, sunglasses (despite the complete absence of the sun), a raincoat, and a huge necklace with the 10 commandments written in Hebrew. (She also woke up that morning saying, “The kitty ate my pants!”)

One morning this week, she pulled almost every dress-up outfit we have onto her body in layers, and we walked to daycare this way, with frilly leotards stuffed-to-bursting with a bulging under-layer of tutus, which then gave skirts pulled over them some seriously poofed-up volume. (I got her down to the bottom layer ballerina costume before leaving her with an outfit of “normal” clothes at daycare.)

Last night, Lily wore her bike helmet and a sheer, flowy yellow dress-up skirt (that’s too long for her, so we hike it up to her armpits), and she carried a small, stuffed version of the mouse of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” fame, while she insisted I carry a larger stuffed version of that same mouse – all to walk to CVS for a few things. After we left, she wanted to carry one of our bags, but she couldn’t make it stay on her arm like a purse, so I made it into a backpack/cape sort of thing for her, and then she insisted she wanted to balance both stuffed mice on top of her helmet while walking home. (Joe secretly tried to lend a hand with this impossible venture, but Lily got a little surly, insisting he not help her. Getting home took a while, but it was hysterical, too.)

And this morning, she insisted on putting the small pail that holds all her hairbands into her doll stroller and pushing it to daycare, while I was assigned to push the regular-sized stroller, with a baby doll strapped in, alongside her on the sidewalk.

These are a just a five examples of how absurdity plays a substantially larger role in your life once you have a child. They hatch ideas and have desires you could never dream up, and because parenting is about nothing if not about picking battles, you generally, as long as it’s not causing any harm, let them pursue their weird little whims.

But these are also some of the most fun moments of parenting. As we all get older, there are fewer and fewer surprises – particularly of the pleasant kind – in our day-to-day life; yet for me and Joe, Lily now provides a giant dose of the unexpected daily.

Yes, this same uncertainty drove me crazy when she was a baby. I never knew, from moment to moment, whether she’d be wailing or all smiles – maybe both within the span of 5 minutes. And while Lily’s moods still shift broadly, the game has changed substantially since she developed more language skills. Now she can tell me what she wants, even if it’s profoundly ridiculous. (This also explains our mutual frustration when she was smaller; how would I have ever possibly guessed that, in her view, the world just might blow apart if she doesn’t get to use the purple spoon for her yogurt? Or that she suddenly doesn’t like camels?)

These days, there’s something lovely about giving ourselves over to the goofy randomness of Lily’s requests. It’s sometimes an excuse to be silly – and speaking as someone who essentially sprang from the womb as an adult in a child’s body, that really means something to me. Mostly, though, it just lets you see the world through new eyes, and you’ve got license to regularly, rampantly zig instead of zag.

Being the lifelong straight arrow I am, I’m digging that particular part of parenting.

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