Of LadyBugs and Porcupines

© Christa Richert, stock.xchng
© Christa Richert, stock.xchng

LadyBug has what my mother has kindly referred to as a “refined sense of teasing.” I’m not sure where it came from, but she’s got a sophisticated and devious sense of humor. We started noticing it when she was just beginning to crawl. She would slowly creep towards her brother (who was about two and a half), grab something he was playing with and then scoot away as fast as she could, grinning and giggling the entire time. This progressed as she began walking and she would typically run to me for refuge. I’m not sure why, since she inevitably had the toy taken away along with a severe scolding. Perhaps it wasn’t about the toy at all. Maybe it was merely the thrill of the chase and the joy of leaving chaos in her wake.

As  LadyBug started talk, the teasing took  on new and more infuriating forms. Her favorite form of torture was to take note of whatever Bug was playing with and, without any move towards the item, claim loudly, “Mine!” The day was filled with LadyBug exclaiming, “My car!” or “My book!” followed by distraught shrieks from her brother. I never quite understood the appeal on her part, or the horror on his. Still, it resulted in much drama in our household until I finally convinced Bug to simply ignore her. She can still invoke screams, but he is learning to change his own reaction since changing hers is like rerouting a river – it can be done, but it requires one heckuva dam.

Although her days are still centered around gleefully annoying Bug (poking him at random moments, hitting him over the head with various objects and continuing the grab-and-run tactics mentioned above), we are starting to see a more enjoyable side of Lady Bug’s twisted sense of humor. At just two, she is startlingly witty and clever, constantly keeping us on our toes.

It all started with “porcupine,” really. We’re not sure where it came from, but it became LadyBug’s favorite word. She uses it with a subtle craftiness that is almost always surprising and equally funny:
“What would you like for lunch today? Yogurt?”
“Cream cheese and jelly sandwich?”
“Hot dog?”
And just as I’m getting exasperated – “Well, what would you like?”
“Porcupine!” I almost always end up laughing, so it’s hard to stay mad for long.
And if you reply with a lighthearted taunt in her direction, “You’re being silly!” She grins and points with one chubby finger, “No, you’re silly!” or, “No! I’m not silly, I’m Lady Bug!”

For the first two years of LadyBug’s life, Big Guy and I sighed, screamed, threatened and cajoled. She remained willful and nonplussed. She wouldn’t sleep without being held, she eats – or not – on her own schedule, and she simply ignores everything you say (she is far too complex to just do the opposite of what you want). It’s infuriating and I was beginning to envision a very long – and tedious – parenting experience. I’ve called her sassy and incorrigible. When we’re feeling generous, we say that she’s “her own person.” Now, as her sense of humor takes on a less taunting tone, we’re able to fully enjoy her unique personality.  Her advancing language skills give us some insight into the creative process behind her actions.

In a world that isn’t always kind to women, I have to admit that I’m secretly delighted to have a sassy little girl who follows her own path and doesn’t bow to someone else’s will. Sure, it makes for a challenging ride as a parent, but I hope she carries that strong sense of self into her future. If she can survive her childhood, I think it will bear her well.

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