One morning last week I was feeling pretty good about myself. Despite a late night of writing I'd gotten up early and with enough energy to achieve that magical concept of being on time at my day job. The Kid With One F had been mostly accommodating in the morning ritual, and even agreed to play her LeapPad at a reasonable volume. The traffic on 290 actually only stopped completely dead for no reason just one time, a record. All was right with the world.
When we got to daycare there wasn't an answer to my knock at the door, which isn't unusual. There's still one child in diapers enrolled and that kid loves to move his bowels right when I show up so my provider often has her hands full of doodie and takes a few minutes to get to the door. Subsequent knocks went unanswered, and my daughter asked if she could ring the doorbell. I hoisted her up and let her do so.
Meanwhile, my head was full of "No Invaders, No Dragons, No Trolls" from the new show on Nick Jr., Wallykazaam. I'm currently in Step 4 of the 8 Steps of cartoon binge-watching insanity process as far as that show goes, and the song was stuck in my head so hard that I, a grown man, was now singling it out loud to no one in particular while standing on the porch.
My daughter quickly joined in, and as she finished the chorus with me she shouted "AND NO GIANTS!" Then she punched me right in the dick.
Now, I'm not as tough as I used to be, but then again I used to be pretty freakin' tough. I finished a two out of three falls lucha libre match with a broken nose, two fractured wrists, and what was probably a serious concussion judging by the fact that I thought I was now wrestling identical twins. I once could throw myself down a flight of stairs for a buddy's low-budget zombie flick no problem.
But when my little four-year-old hauled off with a left hook right into my genitals I went down like Glass Joe, having just enough awareness to see her grinning devilishly as I broke the sound barrier between vertical and horizontal. It's times like this I find out that having a daycare provider who is also a karate instructor is both blessing and curse.
I managed to regain my feet before the door was opened and we made our way into the schoolroom. My daughter was ready to run to the back to play with her friends when she heard me say tell her teacher I'd just been low-blowed.
"Why did you do that?" asked her teacher.
"I'm sorry, Daddy," whispered my daughter.
"You weren't asked if you were sorry, heart." I said. "You were asked why you punched me. That really hurt. It hurts when you get punched, especially there. Would you want someone to punch you?"
She toed the ground in front of her and offered a barely heard "no" followed by more sorries. That's when I made the final judgment.
"You're getting Goob feet, I think."
The Goob is a frankly genius invention by my daycare provider. She draws each kid a cute little cartoon rabbit called Bunny FrooFroo and writes their name on it. Then with tracing paper she draws a grumpy, mean, scaly, horned version known as The Goob. The Goob is folded about five times, and when my daughter and the other kids are mean or don't respect the rules or throw tantrums then that's when you walk over to The Goob and use paper clips to begin the transformation.
First The Goob takes over Bunny FrooFroo's feet, then upper legs, then lower torso, and so on until the nice bunny is completely taken over by The Goob. Honestly, it is the most effective thing I have ever seen. It gives your kid this haunting visual image of personal transformation. They see it in concrete terms, that thin line between playful rough housing and minor infractions that can escalate into the creation of Dolf Hitlers and Joe Stalins and Mike Boltons.
Is that exaggerating? Maybe. I find that high velocity impacts with your fun parts makes you prone to hyperbole. The point is, no child wants to be a dirty Goob. They want to be fluffy Bunny FrooFroos, and the terror of becoming that is usually enough to keep even my hyperactive little ninja in check. Sentence pronounced, she dead man walked to the back to accept her fate.
Later, when I picked her up and was walking normally again her teacher told me that all day long the Kid With One F had begged to be fully Goobed. She felt that she had earned the ultimate punishment. I hoisted her in the air for a big hug.
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"You're not a Goob, Heart," I said.
"I'msosorryIpunchedyouDaddy," she said breathlessly, burying her face in my hair.
"That's how I know you're not a Goob, kiddo. Real Goobs only say they're sorry to get out of being punished. As long as you mean it, as long as you feel bad when you hurt another person, you're not a Goob. You're just a good kid that needs to try a little harder."