Touch of Spice

And the Oscar goes to ...


As her face contorts and her hands fly into the air, Katie's knees buckle and she falls gracefully to the floor with a wail. She bangs her head on the carpet and her lip quivers. A small tear runs down her face and her breathing is made ragged by sobs.

Her life is over. The unspeakable cruelty of the world has beaten her down and she's not sure she'll ever be able to rise again.

And the Oscar goes to ... Katie Currie!

I stand and applaud. Each time her performance is better and better.

We'll, maybe it's not Oscar quality, but my little drama queen definitely has the right stuff.

It's relentless practice that makes her so good.

She's a ham all right. She'll do comedy, too, but she really prefers sorrow, pain, mental anguish. She puts a little extra into those emotions.

But her performance is only as good as her audience.

Katie didn't understand why I wouldn't let her use the plunger to mix shampoo in with the two rolls of Charmin she'd already put in the toilet and frankly, she was furious about it. That's the drama queen's cue. I watched her just long enough to make sure she didn't hit her head, and then I left the room. I may be the director, but she never responds to my request to "cut." To be honest, I'm probably not even the director.

There was silence when I left the room.

A few seconds later, Katie came out of the room found me in the kitchen, stepped in front of me and collapsed to the floor in tears again she understands there's no performance without an audience.

I don't know where kids learn these attention-getting ploys or why they feel they need to use them. Trust me, my daughter is not lacking in attention. Between her parents, her baby sitter and the baby sitter's children and grandchildren, she's lucky her feet ever hit the ground.

At home (on her insistence) she even gets carried while I'm vacuuming. (Don't ever pick a fight with a woman who has children under the age of five. No amount of weights will beef up muscles like a spoiled toddler does.)

Anyway, not only do I not understand how children learn these things, I also don't understand how they learn them so young. They get a handle on manipulation faster than they learn to pee as soon as their diaper comes off (and that's fast, trust me on that one, too).

Before she was six months old, Katie would start coughing whenever someone left the room. Miraculously, her coughing fit would end the minute someone reappeared.

When the impact of coughing faded, she moved on to choking. She can fake choke with the best of them.

The baby has started using those tools of manipulation, but has refined them even more.

Now, when she feels someone's not close enough, she pretends she can't breathe. She draws each little sip of air with a struggle and a gasp, wheezing and kicking.

I about had a heart attack the first time I heard her. I fell out of a chair on my way to save her, bruised my shin on the table and almost landed on her after I stepped on a Matchbox car.

Now, I am not a parent who overreacts. I am not the type of parent who combs the sandbox before her kids get in or passes out when they eat bugs. I can watch Katie choke (for real) without flinching, jumping up or freaking out. In fact, I can do it without missing the punch line of a joke on Friends.

No, I'm not a horrible parent. That's what you're supposed to do. The human body has its own methods for expelling foreign objects and overreaction usually makes things worse. When her lips turn blue, I'll jump into action. I am certified in first aid and CPR, and when all else fails, Katie does know how to dial 911 on her own.

But, the baby's breathing act not only got my attention, it got it with flair.

When they get the reaction they want, which she did, they keep doing it.

So, I working on not reacting. Continuing to eat my egg drop soup while the person at the table next to me is choking on a won ton won't earn me the good samaritan award, but it will keep me from having a heart attack and missing my daughter's debut at the Grammys.

(Christina M. Currie is a Craig native, step-mother of two boys and mother of two small girls. She writes Touch of Spice to use as leverage during her children's teen years, to display at their engagement parties and to share with them when they become parents themselves to show what goes around does indeed come around. All other value, real or imagined, is purely coincidental.)

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