My husband married me knowing I was a package deal. I came complete with a house, a car and a four-year-old daughter whose sole ambition was to rule the world. He watched our constant struggle for domination with the bemused air of a man who has not yet realized he is watching his own inevitable doom. And, much to my annoyance, he managed to stay out of the fray. My daughter was, for the moment at least, content with trying to replace me as the alpha female.
A month after the wedding, I had to take an unexpected business trip. How would my daughter manage, I wondered? We had never been apart for more than two days. Would she be scared without me? After all, despite our skirmishes, I was her rock, her safe place, the center of her universe. I tried to break the news to her as gently as possible, in a way that would be the least damaging to her fragile psyche.
"You're going away?" she asked solemnly, eyes wide. "For a whole week?" I nodded, prepared for the coming flood of tears. "But who will watch me?" she asked anxiously. "Daddy Rob," I assured her.
"Whoo hoo!" she crowed. "We're going to wrestle and stay up late watching TV and have candy for breakfast!" I wish I could say the feeling that flooded over me was relief, but I had a sneaking suspicion that her assessment of the week wasn't far from the truth.
As my departure date loomed, my husband began to get nervous. No longer the dispassionate outsider, he was starting to understand exactly what spending a week with a megalomaniacal munchkin meant. Being a good and loving wife, I reassured him of his place in the pecking order. When that didn't work, I reminded him that he was six foot and two hundred pounds, while our daughter had not yet hit the three-foot mark. "I think you can take her in a fair fight," I joked. "Yes," he trembled, "but I don't think she fights fair."
I became sure of his fate when I called from my hotel room to see how things were going. "Oh, everything's going fine, no problems," he reassured me. "Except that I haven't been able to use the bathroom all day."
"What happened?" I asked, visions of clogged pipes and our life savings wiped out by plumber's bills flashing before my eyes.
"It's your daughter." His voice began to crack with panic. "She's blocked off the hallway, and she keeps changing the dang secret password."