Parenting

Rebranding Smiley

Once upon a time, nothing short of a grin touched the face of my tiniest and youngest monkey. Whether she was yanking fur off the cat's back, tossing cheerios across a room, plummeting down the stairs, or leaping like a daredevil from the arm of a couch, she was all smiles. Giggly, gleeful, overjoyed by daily discoveries. That was Smiley.

I remember the morning she earned her moniker. The sun was up, but barely. My eyes ached, my ears throbbed, and my head rattled with pangs of exhaustion. And yet the calls echoed from a room down the hall. "Daddy, Daddy. I awake. Get me out, get me out." I stumbled to her room, noticed her treating the crib like a trampoline. "I awake! I awake!" she laughed. When I reached down to pick her up that little toddler face beamed, and her lips split open to reveal a handful of mini-teeth. At that moment, Smiley was born.

And then she turned two.

Whatever it is about the age of two that sends children into such a wicked, unending bout of terribleness we may never know, but I consider it a vicious and unrelenting foe. Tantrums spread like the Plague across family rooms, cars, supermarkets. The stress and worry of impending doom infiltrates everything you do and nips at your heels everywhere you go. If you buy grapes instead of strawberries, orange juice instead of apple juice, Fairytopia Barbie instead of Mermadia Barbie (can you believe I actually know the difference?), you're likely to end up with a screaming, hateful, devil child who has no intentions of ceasing the tirade until you correct your error.

Of course, needing to be a strong parent, you have no plans of altering your stance, and your sternness suddenly falls under siege by the cries of your baby, who, under normal circumstances, you love unconditionally, but who now, temporarily, you loathe as the very definition of an enemy. You seek other methods of surrender, other cures for the ailment that is a two-year-old child. In the end, you either cave to the demands of this dinky, one-child army or you stand defiant and triumphant over the would-be conqueror. For some reason, neither outcome makes you feel particularly proud.

A month or so before her second birthday, Smiley entered these dark realms of terribleness. Lo these many months later she has yet to emerge. Her laughter is infected with wickedness. Her smiles, those cute little smiles, deceive and disarm, offering illusions of happiness to mask the devilry lurking in her thoughts.

Smartypants is her target of choice. Without provocation, Smiley will dart across the room, arms extended, mouth agape, grinning, and she'll slam into her sister, shoving her unsuspecting older sibling to the ground. Smiley laughs. Smartypants cries. And the pattern repeats itself day after day after day after day. Though Smartypants is fond of passive aggressive forms of instigation, her most aggravating tendencies can't compete with her sister's overwhelming passion for violence. Smiley kicks, hits, smacks, headbutts, and shoves. The onslaught is vicious, and Smartypants has yet to develop a suitable counter beyond calling for Daddy's help.

The entire situation might be amusing if not for Smartypants' repeated cries of "Daddy, she hit me." To be honest, I'm not sure which is worse: the hitting or the tattling.

In any case, I've forced myself to reconsider the name I use for my miniature King Kong. Known to the blogging world as Smiley, must she be reimagined? Must she be rebranded?

I don't know. I try to think of new names. 'It'. 'The Thing'. "Godzilla'. 'Satan'. Nothing applies. Nothing can properly convey all the mischief of a two-year-old child. Nothing can evoke the sheer madness of living with one. Unless, of course, you imagine an evil genius grinning at her own plans of domination. Think of the Joker in Batman, full of charm and wit and capable of the most vile, unimaginable acts of devilry. The Joker certainly enjoyed a smile or two.

So maybe the name Smiley still applies. Yes. A mad, insane, ingenious version of her younger self.

Smiley it is then. But don't let the moniker fool you.

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