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“I Don’t Know How To Do Gentle!”
Kina is a genuine ruffian, but mostly with me. I have been stomped upon, scratched across the eyeballs, kicked with heels, dragged through the house, punched in delicate places, and strangled—all in the name of playtime. Meanwhile, she gives her mother a ponytail and delicately pats her head while making “hush hush” sounds. It did not occur to me that I would be the kind of father who inspires roughhousing, given my general neurosis about child safety1, and yet I find myself being tackled on a regular basis by a person half my height—she could put an eye out!
Most of our roughhousing occurs at two times of day: in the morning, when she is waking me up and wants to hop on my abdomen with her feet, and in the evening before her bath, when we perform a complicated dance routine to “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” that involves her both running at me full-speed from across the bed and hanging her entire body weight from ny neck. I could, if I wanted to, choose to guide her to calmer forms of entertainment at the edges of her day, but I think I probably enjoy being clobbered by my own child. I have no idea why this is, but I assume this is what it means to be a dad; it is our job to toss children in the air and to be kicked by them, in turn.
Here is the part of the newsletter where I muse wistfully about the day when Kina will no longer bite my shirt and attempt to drag me off the couch with her mouth. Here is where I worry that, if I stop roughhousing with the kid, she will grow up and lose interest in interacting with me at all. Here is the part where I decide to enjoy being beaten up, in a peculiar form of masochistic contentment, because isn’t it all about living in the moment?
No, I think I’ll be fine when Kina no longer attempts to break my nose. I’m sure we can do other things, like read comics together or make a podcast. I do get my sweet moments with her, like when she steals my headphones and pretends to be on a work call, scolding her staff about their lunch habits. Mockery is only a mild form of violence in this household. She’s good to me, for the most part, and as long as I’m not bleeding internally, I can work with her on this.
In the meantime, wish me luck and send helmets.
I listened to Ezra Klein’s podcast about anxiety the other day, and one of the things I really took away from it is that I shouldn’t be talking about myself as “an anxious person”, because I’m more likely to identify with anxious moments and return to that state more frequently. Still, as I contemplated writing the sentence that contains this footnote, I could only go so far as to suggest that I am in possession of my neurosis, in the way that one might say “I am in possession of seasonal allergies”. Habits are hard to break.