We sit facing each other. I study her face, looking for hints, signs, the slightest tell. She’s Fischer, I’m Spassky. On the wall there’s a calendar, homemade, a picture of Sleeping Beauty’s castle and a bunch of princesses (or, as she calls them, PWINCESSESSES). The pictures ring a grid of boxes. The boxes are numbered. 1 – 15. The numbers represent days, days spent wearing underwear, not diapers. We are phasing out the diapers. If, at the end of 15 days, she’s fully entered the world of the Potty Trained, she gets to go to Disneyland. (“DINNYLAND!”) We’re into Day 3.
“You should try to pee-pee, baby.”
“Ein not a baby! Ein a big girl!”
The bathroom’s an arena. I study her. She studies me right back. I think: potty training is the bridge between what I knew of her and what she’ll become. What I know: she’s immensely headstrong. She turns her back and crosses her arms and I can hear her brow furrow. That was five minutes ago, when she insisted that she didn’t need to go. “No, Daddy. Ein not wet! I dwy!” I picked her up and sat her down. “That’s why you need to try and go now. So you don’t get wet.” I’m sure she gets it. I’m convinced that she’s aware of her power to control us. We’re sitting here, she on her padded potty seat, me on a battered plastic stepstool. What I think: This was easy with Lucas – drop trou, point, and shoot. But she’s a little girl, and they are riddles wrapped in enigmas wrapped in leotards and tutus. She reads me like a book. A gambit: “Daddy, Marmaduke was funny.” (She’s referring to that ghastly movie.) “Why was Marmaduke funny, baby?” She laughs. “Because the DOGGIE has a PENIS!” I snort. Queen takes Bishop. Now she can pee, or not. “You funny too, Daddy!” She pees. What she knows: cause and effect. Hold on to the rails and you don’t fall. Pee in your pants and you get wet. Pee in the potty and you get a cookie. Pee in the potty for 15 days and DINNYLAND! What she’ll become: someone who’s taken a step away from relying on us.