A daughter resists the back seat.

Notes on fatherhood.
May 7 2002 2:32 PM

Driving Miss Tallulah

A daughter resists the back seat.

A painting from a happier mind
A painting from a happier mind(Digital images sponsored by RadioShack)

The other day on the way to school Tallulah demanded, unusually, that I shut off the nursery rhymes. Then, even more unusually, she sat silently, staring straight ahead, ignoring my attempts to engage her in conversation. I tilted the rearview mirror to make sure she wasn't choking on something and was greeted with a gaze of what I can only describe as mad intensity. Finally she said, "My Daddy is dead."

Tallulah's vision of a spider's sorry end?
Tallulah's vision of a spider's sorry end? (Digital images sponsored by RadioShack)

Four weeks ago, before the birth of Dixie, this would have shocked me. Now it's almost pleasantly familiar. Tallulah's going through a dark phase. A week ago she came home from school with a stack of drawings. Gone were the blue and pink pastels she has favored since she first became a prolific artist. In their place were many disturbing furious black scrawls. One horrifying ink and crayon sketch resembled an ax-murdered spider. My child has entered her first new period.

Advertisement

"Oh, so now I'm dead?" I said, cheerily.

"You stink, Daddy," she said.

"Am I dead or do I stink?"

She thought it over. "Both."

On some days she hollers insults at me the whole way to school—"You stink" and "You're dead" are two favorites—and if she can find something to hurl at my head, she'll do that, too. Driving her around these days is like playing right field for the visiting team in Yankee stadium.

The division of responsibility that's followed the birth of a second child has left me exposed in whole new ways. With Tabitha essentially glued to Dixie, I am the only outlet for Tallulah's understandable need to scream at her parents. I am also her main parental influence. I confess I hadn't realized the implications of this until the other night when, after a brutalizing day on which I foolishly agreed to take both children myself so that their mother might go to San Francisco, I was tip-toeing out of the room containing mother and nursing child and aiming myself in the general direction of the sofa bed. Mother seemed glum. "What's the matter?" I asked, not particularly caring for the answer. Out gushed a torrent of complaints about Tallulah's behavior since Dixie's birth. She'd become surly with baby-sitters; she'd stopped sleeping through the night; she no longer ate her vegetables; she was resisting the final, crucial stages of potty training; she showed no interest in any activity except watching Shrek for the 150th time; she'd been rude to her mother when she returned from San Francisco.

In the good old days when Tabitha complained to me about Tallulah she did so in a collaborative spirit. We were joined by common interests; we were Munger and Buffett hashing out investment strategy. This didn't sound like that. This sounded more like an Arab attempting to engage an American on the subject of the Israeli army.

"She's not eating her vegetables because she's pissed off about Dixie," I said.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Behold
Sept. 21 2014 11:00 AM Sometimes You Just Need to Print Your Photos the Old-Fashioned Way 
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.