Seven Years of Imagination, Attitude, Precociousness, Kindness and Love

On March 1st, 2015, at around 9am, Emily's water broke. It happened right around the time I was going to record an episode of The Movie Breakdown with Scott Martin. This meant we wouldn't end up recording an episode that week, and we rushed off to the hospital, because obviously, a baby was on the way in just a couple of hours. 

Except it took many hours later. The baby refused to start pushing, and our midwife started talking about inducing labour. By early evening, Danika finally arrived. On that day, you could say she was stubborn, and she was born on her time and her terms.

Not much has changed.

I worked from home when Everett was born, and so I was a stay-at-home parent who balanced my client work with looking after Everett during the day. While there were plenty of distractions, I got a decent amount of work done, because I could put some toys and books in front of Everett, and he would entertain himself while I focused on some pressing work. He also was a decent napper, and he napped right until starting Kindergarten, so I had hours to do writing.

At the time, I thought I cracked the parenting code. 

Danika then said, 'hold my bottle' and stomped all over my ego as a parent.

I have mentioned on here several times before that I thought it was something Emily and I did as parents that made Everett as a toddler eat anything. You keep hearing about kids being picky eaters, but Everett would try all kinds of new food, and so obviously, it meant we were just great parents to avoid that headache.

We didn't.

Danika was a great eater if cereal or cookies were being offered, but if we served annoying things like a well-balanced dinner, then we had two hours of begging and debating to get that food finished. When she was young, she tried feeding most of her dinner to the dog, who at the time was Summit, when we weren't looking. If the dog wasn't around then the floor would do just fine as a food holding station.

But the big realization that each kid is different, and I should never pat myself too hard on the back for my work as a parent was the complete opposite that a day with young Everett was like compared to Danika. When I looked after Everett, I got work for clients done, and Danika was my work.

She napped. Sometimes. Until around her turning three. Then the sometimes was over. It was all singing in the crib and learning to climb out of the crib. Once she moved to a bed, because she was getting out of the crib too much, it was the official end to the fabled idea of naps and hours of work without Danika demanding my attention.

What about the toys and books that were so effective in distracting and entertaining Everett? Well, they entertained Danika too. But those toys and books that were still in near pristine quality after Everett moved on to other things, now looked like they had been left in a tiger's cage. Many books now have giant bites out of them and the toys were well-loved, if we describe love as teeth marks and cracks. The toys were also great things to chase the dog with or whack off her brother's head when she decided he was saying something that she disagreed.

To be fair, you'd think one Tonka truck flying towards your skull would be enough to realize you don't tease Danika when something is in her hand. When Danika learned to talk, some of her first sentences were defenses on why she needed to hit her brother.

Of course, I am in no place for claiming Everett did not learn his lessons with Danika. Three years of looking after Danika before she went to school, and I kept clinging to the idea that this time she was distracted, and I could leave her in that room by herself for a few moments.

This led to times like her seasoning the couch with salt and cinnamon and pepper and powdered vanilla, because if I didn't want them all over the couch then why did those things come in shakers?

Or when I was outside for a minute with the dogs, and came back to see my daughter, who I thought was distracted by TV, now completely naked and covered in lipstick. She greeted me with 'I'm pretty, daddy.'

We keep the candies and treats in the pantry. The pantry has a collection of pull-out shelves. The treats have always been on the top shelf, because the kids can't get them there. In theory. Two-year-old Danika learned the shelves work as a ladder, and proceeded to eat as much of Everett's Halloween candy as possible before I discovered her.

Danika always had a defense. Why did we have candy if she wasn't supposed to eat it? Or it is Everett's fault for having a toy that wasn't unbreakable. If I didn't want her to cut a hole in her dress, then why did I have scissors in the house? I shouldn't take away her treat for yelling at me, because treats make her happy and she is good when she is happy.

And just in case you think this apparent tribute to my freshly turned seven-years-old daughter is actually a horror story, the key word about her is happy.

Because Danika for the most part, even when driving me nuts is happy. And she really cares about making me happy. And her mom happy. And her brother happy. And her grandparents happy. And strangers she greets on the sidewalk happy. 

She cares about people. All people. She wants them to be happy. She wants to know how they are feeling. She wants to know how she can make them feel better.

Danika is a Jedi at sensing the feelings of others. I'll go through my day thinking all is okay, and she will ask me why I am upset and what is wrong. It isn't until she asks this that I realize I am stressed or have allowed something in the back of my mind to control my emotions. She is connected to the feeling of others, because she deeply cares about others.

Even though I spent most of this piece talking about my daughter like she is a roller coaster flying off the tracks, it is a roller coaster full of flowers, unicorns, stuffed bears and blankets. She may be the one that caused you to cry, but she is also the first one there to give you a hug and give you her own chocolate bar to make you feel better.

Despite all the shenanigans that filled my days looking after Danika and how little work seemed to get done, every day was a great one, because I spent it with one of the most caring, loving and imaginative human beings that I've ever known. I could write a sweeping book about all the reasons that I'm proud of Danika. One of the biggest is that she has taught me how to be a better, kinder and more empathetic person.

Danika loves going out. She loves the park. She loves restaurants. She loves all kinds of trips. There are many reasons she loves them, but the best part for her is just meeting new people. She will say 'hi' to anyone. She goes out with the intention of making as many new friends as possible. There was a time at a shoe store where she invited everyone there to a birthday party -- now, it was not her birthday party -- but that was besides the point. She has always lived by the more is merrier.

It also needs to be pointed out that even though Everett has a few scars and bite marks courtesy of his sister, they also have been amazing playmates and friends. I am so happy that both my kids have my imagination, and will spend hours together going on treasure hunts and exploring magical worlds together.

The last two years have been tough for everyone. But Danika has made sure that we never lost our entertainment. She has put on evening shows that consist of plays and songs and poems and monologues. All of them created in the moment in wonderful improv style. I wouldn't be surprised if you are all going to be buying a ticket to see her big show in a few decades from now. She thrives on entertaining and making others laugh and smile, because being happy is important to her. 

In her world, kindness and friendship matters most. She is right, because it is what matters.

I am so blessed that Danika is my daughter. I am so blessed by everything she has taught me. Danika has made me a better person. I can't wait to see the person she continues to grow into being, but I am in love with the person that she is right now. 

Happy Birthday, Danika. I love you so much, my sweet warrior princess. 


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