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bella is a willful human. changing her will, when she's willful, is as easy as compelling a devout vegan to eat raw meat, and requiring them to enjoy every sinewy bite.

now bella has always been spirited but i remember the first time her level of conviction alarmed me. bella was four and at the time of this tale was getting washed by her mother. midway through the bath i began hearing raised voices, then shouts, then the bathroom door banging open loudly. the slam of the door was punctuated with, "i'm done. i'm never washing you again. ever! you're on your own bella!" in a home with children and two parents, this scenario is referred to as 'getting called up'. the parental second string and in this home it is more like the third or even fourth level on the depth chart. i have a fifth of the patience, a tenth of the skill and a twentieth of the instincts as marty, but none of that really mattered now because QB1 just went down.

i calmly entered the bathroom and took a seat on the toilet, facing bella. she sat in the tub with crossed legs, wet all over and looking rather innocent. i explained that she made a mistake by not listening to her mother and that from now on, i would be the one washing her. she took this in silently and expressionless. i said that going forward there would be just one rule and that rule was if she did not listen to my instructions, i would pour a cup of water on her head. this was bella's most hated bath-related thing which we came to learn naturally enough through fierce hair-washing battles with the girl. i explained that on this first night if she broke the rule i would count to three before pouring the water. i asked her if she understood this one and only rule. she nodded. it took just three minutes for the first pouring. i counted it off ... one ... two ... three. she yelled and chided me while i finished the count to which i said, upon reaching three, you better close your eyes. she got two pourings the first night and after each one yelled and scowled much like martin riggs did to endo during their time together in the first lethal weapon.

the next night i got bella situated into the steamy tub. i again sat on the toilet seat and immediately asked her if she remembered the bath rule. she said she did. i said that i was confident we could get through tonight's bath without incident. i then sat back to give her a few minutes of play time before the washing began. instead of engaging in her usual pre-wash games of distributing water from container to container and floating boats, she got on all fours and sat motionless. i leaned forward to see what she was doing. she seemed to be concentrating very hard and was breathing deeply. i was about to say something when she plunged her head underwater and held it there. my eyes widened and i leaned forward even more. as suddenly as she plunged her head into the water she ripped it out and panted for breath. she sat up, rubbed her eyes thoroughly and when composed, returned to her all-fours position, took a few deep breaths, and again plunged her face back into the water. she did this five times and after the fifth sat up and went about her usual games. when the business of washing began she started balking at her hair washing. i reminded her of the pouring rule to which she said calmly, almost gleefully, "go ahead. i don't mind that anymore."

the next morning at work i sat at my desk in a bit of a fog. smart ryan came by breaking me from my stupor. smart ryan is a very intelligent, muscle-bound, ex-athlete who has two older boys. sensing my funk he asked what was going on. i numbly recounted last night's bathtub episode. at its conclusion his face wore a stricken and somber look. this certainly was not the first bella-tale he's taken in, but after this one he slowly shook his head, looked at me sympathetically and said with a full sincerity, "man, that little girl of yours truly scares me." he doesn't know the half of it because i'm also married to an adult version of that little girl. it's a bit of a wonder i've made it this far.

MAR2008

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