Zoe does not like having her diaper changed. This was obvious even before she developed sufficient eloquence to screech, “No change!” Before words there was body language. As an infant she would avert her eyes from the changing pad to communicate her moral objection. As soon as she became mobile she'd crawl away, often dragging one leg behind her. (We weren't sure if the leg dragging was about lopsided development or if her leg had just fallen asleep due to the diaper's yield, making her butt appear larger than normal.)
Basically, whenever it was time to change her she'd resist. Arch her back. Kick and scream. Go limp. You name it. If you needed to convey great dissatisfaction physically, she could teach the class. Zoe would not submit. Not only was the diaper change undignified and uncomfortable but, presumably, she had better things to do, such as exploring the universe, terrorizing the cat, climbing on the coffee table, licking rocks, and also, she just no wanna.
If you are a parent or have just been around a toddler and able to maintain a reasonable degree of sobriety, you’ve probably noticed they are little imitators. I make a face, she tries to make the same one. I cook dinner, she slams pots on the floor and beats their lids with a wooden spoon. I let a curse slip, she shouts obscenities all the way home as we pass churches, elderly women, and elderly women just leaving church. So what to make of it when she started re-enacting the diaper change from her point of view, which involved her picking up her Elmo doll by his leg, swinging him through the air, and throwing him down on the diaper pad. She'd then proceed to wrap a diaper around his midsection and whisk him up and away, the diaper coming loose immediately and dropping to the floor behind her. This was not an isolated incident. It became part of her ritual play. Dragging Elmo. Whirling him through the air in a motion my sports fan husband described as: Here's the windup, there's the child abuse.
What would Social Services make of this performance? I wondered. Would they try to take her away from us? Here I paused to recall those distant afternoons when I was able to savor a hot cup of tea with my feet up as my husband and I watched a movie as opposed to what had become our desperate nightly attempts to watch something for adults, something sophisticated with as much intricate plotting as we could now follow in our sleep-deprived states, something, say, like Fashion Police. But now I considered, Should I inform on us? Invite Social Services over for a little tea, coffee, and implied abuse? No, it was probably better to keep Zoe's indictment of my parenting skills to ourselves.
Fast-forward to a visit from Grandma. She and I are chatting, mostly about The Subject, trying to hear each other over Zoe’s thrash metal version of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” our talk ranging from What Cute Thing Zoe Did to Is she, possibly, insane or is she just smarter than any being that small has a right to be, when we notice that she’s stopped singing and is now unfolding the changing pad. She goes back into her room and returns with the “newborn” doll we bought so she could learn to model loving behavior. She is dragging it by its hair until she gets it to the changing pad, at which point she windmills it with great force overhead before slamming it down on the diaper pad, yelling, “Change!” shortly followed by: “No!” My mother-in-law and I pause, and lest she think Zoe’s learned this from me, I say, with sarcasm, “Yeah, because that’s exactly the way I do that.” And we share an uncomfortable chuckle, as Zoe places her knee on the doll’s neck then lovingly puts a diaper over its head ensuring it will never breathe again.
Zoe: 4; Universe: 0