Parenthood is sneaky.
I have found, over the years, that it sets you up, giving you a false sense of security, only to later drop the proverbial shoe directly on your head. But let me explain.
In her early years, my daughter’s morning smile would light the way into my day. I’d rush to her crib, and when our eyes met, she’d break into a grin and begin babbling about all her plans. This pattern continued for years. Good times.
About a year and a half ago, a strange transformation took place. My sweet little girl, who would normally wake up singing and full of cheer, began waking up with … an attitude.
One morning, I kissed her on the forehead. She opened her eyes and her grumpy expression came at me like a brick wall, practically throwing me backwards.
Yikes, I thought. Is she sick? Should I get a doctor? She began looking around, red hair sticking straight up like she’d become a punk rocker overnight.
Unfortunately, we learned over the next month or so that this was not an isolated incident. Our sweet little girl was growing up and clearly had plans to take us all down with her.
A new pattern emerged—one where my husband, son and I would get up in the morning and head downstairs, maintaining zero volume, so as not to wake up “the girl.”
As soon as we’d hear movement from her room, the three of us would sit up like ferrets sensing a predator. Panic would set in. Who would be the one to make first contact? Being good parents, my husband and I had a secret pact that, in a pinch, we could use “the boy” as a human shield.
Don’t judge us. You’d have done the same thing.
The rule became, “You wake her, you take her.” And there was no question that if anyone of us made a loud noise, we’d turn on each other. It was every man for himself.
Finally, we realized, we couldn’t go on living in fear. Something had to be done.
I thought and thought, until I finally I came up with a plan—a diabolical plan.
That was the day “The Thirty-Second Smile” was born.
One morning I walked into her room and, before she got the chance to open her eyes, I told her to smile. She defiantly continued to scowl, but I persevered.
I explained that the new house rule was that nobody got out of bed until they smiled for thirty seconds. She rolled her eyes, but soon realized I would not relent and agreed to give it a try.
I counted slowly, wanting it to last as long as possible. A lot was riding on this experiment. My men were counting on me to make it work.
A few minutes later, my daughter and I appeared in the kitchen—a pleasant expression on both of our faces. My son and my husband were afraid to speak. Could it be? Had the reign of terror ended? Well, yes, at least for now.
Ever since then, my daughter has come to count on her thirty-second smile as much as we have. Evidently, she likes to start her day happy. Who knew?
So mornings are better now, in the Herbert household. And we appreciate that. But as I said, parenthood is sneaky, and my husband and I both know that the next “proverbial shoe” could drop at any minute.
Taryn Grimes-Herbert is the author of the "I've Got" interactive book series for children. Calling upon her professional acting experience on Broadway, film and television, she takes her books into classrooms, and speaks publicly, hoping to help kids build character, develop empathy and learn to communicate respect through creative dramatics activities. For more information, visit http://www.ivegotbooks.net.