A day in the life:

“Dad? You’re gonna be mad.”
She’s on the other side of the door but I can see her squirming, anxiety flooding.
“Ugh.” I groan. “What did you do?”
“Don’t be mad. You’ll be mad.”
“Well, should I be mad? What did you do?”
“Blurty, blurb, bubble, bubble.”
“I can’t understand what you’re saying. What did you do? Is there blood?”
“No! There’s no blood! It’s slime. I spilled slime all over the concrete.”
“Slime? What? Who cares about slime?”
“But I don’t want you to be mad. You’re mad already, aren’t you?” I’m having to pick shards of words out from between her sniffling.
“Good god, girl. It can’t be that bad. Go show me.”

So we go outside. She half trips with her steps and shows me a corner of the patio where there are pink and blue glue gobs spattered all over the concrete.

“What happened? How did you get it all over the place?”
“I spilled it.” She blurts more than talks. “I spilled it all over and we tried to clean it and her mom came and got her and then Toby is walking all over it.”
“Ok.” I’m doing my job here as the family shock absorber. With three women in the house my job is to even out the bumps. To keep perspective. “Ok, there’s slime all over. I see slime all over the screen door and on the bunny hutch. It’s glue. I can clean it. But we have a new rule about slime, right.” No question mark. A definitive.
Our eyes meet. “Okay.”
“No slime outside. No slime inside. I am so damned though with slime. Every time we make slime it’s going to stay at the kitchen table. And every time we make slime it finds its way all over the house. I’m going to tell mom that we don’t make anymore slime. Right?” Our eyes meet again. “What’s the new rule?”
“No more slime.”

And I ache for her.

I’m mad at her, too. This will take me half an hour to clean. I should make her do it but let me tell you how this works. Slime will be everywhere. It’s glue and soap. There is no stopping it once it starts. It moves like it’s alive. It gets between things and inside things and leaves a sheen and film on everything it touches. And, no, none of this is listed on the box as a possible side effect. So she knows that she’s in trouble, but sheesh, when I do I get mad? I’m the most calm Dad on the whole planet. I know my job.

But her little heart breaks at any breach. She’s a torch and it’s all on or all off. I have no idea how this will serve her left unrestrained. She’s pendulum with only two stops. She cuts out the middleman. She is so sweet that it breaks your heart. Then she is mad as hell and let’s you know. She knows everything and sets you straight. She has never, ever, even once come close to losing an argument. She will forego dessert or TV or almost anything to have the last word.

But her heart that is so easily broken that I fear for her. She can tell you every time that someone on the playground said that they will play but ditched her for someone else. And she explains it away. “Well, I would rather play with Brooke than me, too.” She yells at her sister and when her sister has enough and wants to play alone, she cries and carries on that her sister doesn’t love her. The rules of engagement, the codes of cause-and-effect, never occur to her. She craves love and to think that her Dad is mad at her and thinks less of her for even one second is too much for her.

Sometimes I think fine, cry you little brat. You deserve your sister’s reaction. You should be sorry. But then I think that childhood is too short and family too tender. Wear your heart on your sleeve. Hiding mine has never done anything good. I’m sure that this is better.

So, we’re good. I will clean the glue. There will be no more goo. In all of five minutes she forgets everything while her twin inspects the damage, talking note of every bit of slime that remains.