12/22/2008 By Shawn Burns

That place, that well-spring of violence and condescension, of fevers, earaches, scratches, bruises, tears, blood, and No, God Please Don’t Bring Any Juice, is, after all, not entirely evil.

Erin is actually learning some things in the daycare environment that are not pounded into her by older kids or grown from the seeds sown by her slightly-negligent father. She has learned how to put her baby doll down for a nap. And she has also learned how to save her dad some quarters at the laundromat.

Our first couple of weeks at daycare were Shakespearian tragedies starring Erin’s accoutrements. The teachers refused to put bibs on the kids, and expected them to sit in their little tiny chairs at their little tiny tables with open cups of milk and bowls of yogurt, and like the asylum inmate confirming everyone’s suspicions, they expected different results from the same actions every day.

And we washed. Erin went through two or three changes of clothes every day.

And while I was there during snack time to co-op each week Erin was standing up every two minutes to take a lap, trailing her yogurt spoon behind or dropping pieces of whole wheat (No God Please Don’t Bring Anything with Eggs) bagels on the floor. It was utterly demoralizing to see that she just wasn’t as polite or patient as some of the other kids. It had everything to do with me as a parent. I never enforced sitting down, staying still, not-wandering-off time at home and now everyone was paying the price because I sent a wild monkey to daycare. She was getting her first "F" in life, and it was at "Manners."

Now, though, as if to deliberately thumb their collective noses at all of those people who define insanity as "doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results", the daycare teachers have succeeded. Erin comes home now in the same outfit she was sent in. She sits through her entire snack. She drinks from open cups and wields her spoon with surgical dexterity. And her cute factor has increased exponentially.

"Mo’ pease," she says. Or "mo’ mik pease." And now that she is a fully developed little adult, tossing her mature requests about, I suddenly can’t keep up.

I used to feel like she was changing and maturing no faster than I could adapt; that I was growing as a father as quickly as she was growing as a child. But now she’s shifting gears. She is speeding up to take the green flag and I’m the pace car leaving the track after a couple of laps. (Cars has been on all day today. This post does not exist in a temporal or cultural vacuum. Disney owns part of my soul.)

I know I ought to be learning how to decline requests just as quickly as she is learning how to make them; that when she asks for her 80th oz of milk in the day that I should say no. But her casual "mo’ pease" is like a tunnel under the fence: it breaches my defenses before I even realize I’m under siege. (I was also remembering my Caesar and Vercingetorix and you can bet the Romans are thankful that the Gauls didn’t try using cuteness to break the Siege of Alesia.)

What makes it even more irresistible is that she signs her requests; she is more emotive and compelling when she puts her fingertips together for "more" and then swoops her hand around her chest for "please". I feel like I might be able to keep up, to fend her off, if she weren’t also assaulting me with her cute little gestures.

And so she’s been getting a lot of milk lately. Dad can’t say no.

Today for some reason her language exploded again and she started putting even more polite requests together. "Mo’ tota pease" when her grandmother called; "Mo’ juice pease"; "Mo’ piggy pease".

"Mo’ kiss pease," just before bed as we were kissing her goodnight.

"Mo’ kiss pease," and she urged us to delay the end of day.

"Mo’ kiss pease," and her mother obliged over and over and over, like any sane person expecting the same result each time.

But Erin’s daycare teachers have made us question what we know about sanity: Erin can drink from a cup and only wears one shirt each day. And she’s outpacing her mother too.

"No mo’ kiss. Night-night."

That’s how you have to be when mom won’t stop kissing you goodnight and just let you go to sleep already even though you’re the one who started it. And that’s how you get an "A++" in "Manners."