She was nearly ready for the bath. Her dad began to pull the rubber band out of her hair.
“I’ll get it, daddy,” she said.
She bent her little head forward and continued pulling from where her father had left it. Once her hair was free, she shook her head the way women do in shampoo commercials and smiled. He laughed.
“I don’t like it when you laugh at me,” she said.
“Huh?” he asked.
“You shouldn’t laugh at people, daddy,” she asserted.
“Oh, H-, I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing because what you did was funny.”
“I wasn’t trying to be funny,” she said.
“Oh okay. Well, tell me about it then. What’s the rule?”
“You shouldn’t laugh at people, daddy. It’s not nice. That’s the rule,” she said. Her earnestness made him smile.
“Okay, H-. No laughing at people.”
“D- and Mommy don’t laugh at me. Only you laugh at me,” she continued, unaware of the particularly sharp barb her words contained.
“Is that so? Hmm. Well, I laugh a lot. And I think you are funny a lot of the time. And you seem to want to make me laugh a lot of the time.”
“Can I play a little after I’m clean? Mommy lets me.”
“Maybe that’s because you don’t lecture her,” he retorted. Immediate and intense regret followed.
A clean little H- put her My Little Pony onesie on and picked out the story to follow the obligatory reading from The Hobbit. It soon became clear that he wasn’t ready to concede defeat.
“So you don’t like it when I laugh at you?” he asked. “What if it’s because you did something to be funny?”
“It’s like this, daddy. When I do something funny, it sticks to me. And so when you laugh at it, you’re laughing at me.”
On the bed with her, half laying, half sitting, book in hand he stared at her. Not thinking he even twitched, he watched as she began a sustained and genuine-seeming bout of hysterical laughter. It seemed pure, but he couldn’t be sure. And his uncertainty frightened him. If there was one trait he knew he could work on, it was kindness. But he didn’t need his daughter to be the one to force him to learn it. Though, she was probably the only authority to which he would abdicate his power. After calming down, she claimed he had made some funny expression that made her laugh and playfully asked for another. But he had not. Being called out by otherworldly logic had put him nearly in tears, not poised to play buffoon dad. On top of the uncommon display of sage reasoning, is it possible she noticed this and purposefully disrupted the forming somber mood?