Dialogues With My Daughter

She talks sense into me.

My daughter is four and a half years old. About a year ago, I started writing down some of our conversations, because I have a taste for the absurd, and also to remind myself — later down the line — that I once almost had the upper hand. Here are a few of the things we’ve said to each other, in chronological order.

Bees Throwing Humans Into A Pond (as named by the artist) — Marilyn, age 3.5

[walking home from school]
Me: What did you have for lunch today?
Marilyn: Fish fingers.
Me: Right, so I won’t give you fish fingers for dinner.
Marilyn: No I had lasagna.
Me: You said you had lasagna yesterday.
Marilyn: I had pasta.
Me: Tell me, did you have fish fingers today?
Marilyn: No.
Me: How many fish fingers did you have?
Marilyn: Two fish fingers.
Me: OK, no fish fingers tonight then.
Marilyn: I had pasta.
Me: What kind of pasta?
Marilyn: It had lasagna in it.
Me: Sure. Did you have ketchup with your fish fingers?
Marilyn: I did.
Me: Whatever. I’m making fish fingers.


[walking hand in hand, being unusually quiet]
Me: What are you thinking about?
Marilyn: I’m thinking about a gorilla washing his clothes.
[we keep walking​ in silence]


[snack time]
Marilyn: Daddy, you made the best chocolate milk!
Me: I didn’t make it, it’s shop-bought.
Marilyn: Daddy, you bought the best chocolate milk!
Me: I didn’t buy it, mummy did.
Marilyn: Daddy, mummy bought the best chocolate milk!
Me: Yeah, but who gave it to you?
Marilyn: You did! Daddy, you’re the best!
Me: Damn straight.


[at breakfast]
Marilyn: Trust fund.
Me: What?
Marilyn: Trust fund!
Me: What are you trying to say?
Marilyn: Daddy? Trust fund.
Me: I don’t think you know what it -
Marilyn: Trust…
Me: Listen, it’s -
Marilyn: Fund.
Me: OK. We can discuss it when you’re older. Don’t get your hopes up.
Marilyn: I love cereal.
Me: Me too. I love cereal.


Me: Can you help me name some characters for a story? Think of some good names for some baddies.
Marilyn: Gurgfidge. And… Butterguy.
Me: Butterguy? I like it! Maybe you could name all my characters! Keep going.
Marilyn: Harriett Poo Poo.
Me: No.
Marilyn: Yes.
Me: I don’t like it.
Marilyn: I said poo poo! It’s really funny.
Me: It’s not.
Marilyn: It is. You don’t know what’s funny, daddy.
Me: This isn’t going to work. Go play with your toys.
Marilyn: (walking off, still laughing) Poo poo. So funny.


Me: For the hundredth time, you can’t wear your reindeer boots to school! It’s too warm! Your feet will sweat so much that they’ll melt and you’ll have to go to hospital.
Marilyn: Daddy?
Me: Yes?
Marilyn: Are you lying?
Me: No!
Marilyn: You are! You’re telling lies. It’s when you say things that are not really true.
Me: No! I’m not… OK fine. Look. It’s just too warm to wear those boots. Please wear your shoes. You’ll be more comfortable.
Marilyn: I will. But daddy?
Me: Yes?
Marilyn: Promise me you won’t lie ever again.
Me: (lying) I promise.


Marilyn: Today at the nursery, Owen called me Fish Legs.
Me: Oh really.
Marilyn: He did. Daddy, is Fish Legs a lovely name?
Me: No.
Marilyn: Why did he call me Fish Legs if it’s not a lovely name? 
Me: Is this the same Owen who comes running to you in the morning, who can’t stop smiling when he’s with you, but also pushes you and teases you a lot?
Marilyn: It is!
Me: He called you Fish Legs because he likes you. 
Marilyn: I really like Owen.
Me: One day it will all make sense.
Marilyn: OK.
Me: Actually, it will never make sense.
Marilyn: OK.
Me: Love is complicated.
Marilyn: OK.
Me: I still don’t really get it.
Marilyn: OK.
Marilyn: Daddy?
Me: Yes?
Marilyn: But… fish don’t have legs!
Me: I told you, it’s complicated.
Marilyn: Daddy?
Me: Yes?
Marilyn: It’s complicated.
Me: Yeah. It’s complicated.


Me: Did you chew on this tube of toothpaste? 
Marilyn: I didn’t.
Me: There’s loads of bite marks on it.
Marilyn: It was Gargamel.
Me: Gargamel doesn’t exist. I think it was you.
Marilyn: Listen to me daddy. When people are children, they pretend to be bad guys. I am a children.
Me: A child.
Marilyn: I am a child. 
Me: Please don’t chew on the toothpaste.
Marilyn: Gargamel is in the bathroom.
Me: Fine, tell him not to chew on the toothpaste.
Marilyn: He doesn’t listen to me. I will smash him with a hammer.
Me: Thanks.


[Morning bathroom routine]
Marilyn: Daddy, do Granny and Grandad have a bathroom?
Me: Yes.
Marilyn: Will I brush my teeth at Granny and Grandad’s house?
Me: Yes.
Marilyn: Are Granny and Grandad old?
Me: Yes.
Marilyn: Are they very old?
Me: Not that old.
Marilyn: Are you very old?
Me: No.
Marilyn: Am I very old?
Me: You’re not brushing your teeth.
Marilyn: Are you going to die?
Me: Not yet. 
Marilyn: I don’t want you to die. 
Me: Me neither.
Marilyn: I want to keep you. 
Me: Thanks. Brush your teeth.
Marilyn: If you stomp on an ant, they die. I stomped on an ant inside, but not outside, because the ants live outside, so it’s okay for the ants to be outside, but not inside, because we live inside.
Me: Brush your teeth.
Marilyn: This toothpaste is so fresh. It’s minty fresh. It tastes really fresh. The other toothpaste isn’t fresh like this one. This one is so, so fresh. It’s so minty. I love this toothpaste. It’s so fresh.
Me: For the love of God stop talking and brush your teeth.


Me: I cut my finger.
Marilyn: I want to see.
Me: Too late, I put a plaster.
Marilyn: Show me.
Me: I can’t.
Marilyn: I want to see your blood.


Marilyn: (frowning) Taylor Swift is so scary. She’s like Halloween. She’s spooky like Halloween.
Me: Uh-huh.
Marilyn: Taylor swift is fake. Her body is so fake. I still like her, but she’s so fake. She’s utterly fake. Utterly. Daddy! Why are you laughing!
Me: I’m sorry. Carry on.
Marilyn: I was saying, in that video, Taylor Swift is fake. And anyway, the real Taylor Swift is dead. She’s just dead… Daddy! I’m being serious!
Me: Sorry. Please continue.
Marilyn: No way. I’m going to talk to mummy. She will listen to me. Then I will watch Netflix. You hear me daddy? I want to watch Netflix, so put on Netflix while I talk to mummy about Taylor Swift. And I want an ice cream. Put on Netflix and get me some ice cream.
Me: Say please.
Marilyn: Please.
Me: Fine.
Marilyn: Thank you.
Me: …
Marilyn: SAY YOU’RE WELCOME.
Me: You’re welcome.


Marilyn: I don’t want to go to bed! I’m not tired! Look!
[pulls up her t-shirt and slaps her belly really fast with both hands] You see? You see the speed? I’m not tired!


Marilyn: *trying to open vitamins*
Me: Le me do it. It’s a special bottle with a child-proof lid, you won’t be able to open it.
Marilyn: *opens it*
Me: I’ll get my coat.


[in the garden]
Marilyn: What the fug is this?
Me: What?!
Marilyn: What is this insect called, daddy?
Me: For a moment I thought you said… Never mind. It’s a caterpillar.
Marilyn: A caterpillar.
Me: Yeah. One day it will turn into a butterfly.
Marilyn: Fucking hell.
Me: WHAT? 
Marilyn: …
Me: Where did you hear this?!
Marilyn: You said it, when you were blowing up the paddling pool.
Me: Fuck.
Marilyn: What?
Me: Nothing.


Marilyn: Daddy, you’re going in the bedroom with your shoes on!
Me: You’re right. I shouldn’t.
Marilyn: You went in the bedroom with your shoes on.
Me: I did.
Marilyn: I saw you going in the bedroom with your shoes on, then I said “Daddy, you’re going in the bedroom with your shoes on!”
Me: Yes, I was there when it happened five seconds ago.
Marilyn: You’re not supposed to go in the bedroom with your shoes on.
Me: Please stop.
Marilyn: That’s why I said, “Daddy, you’re going in the bedroom with your shoes on!”
Me: I beg you.
Marilyn: I’m going to tell mummy that I saw you going in the bedroom with your shoes on, so I said “Daddy, you’re going in the bedroom -
Me: Please -
Marilyn: — with your shoes on!”, because you’re not supposed to go in the bedroom with your shoes on.
Me: I can’t take this any long-
Marilyn: You had your shoes on when you went in the bedroom, and -
Me: STOP TALKING!
Marilyn: I CAN’T!
Me: YOU CAN!
Marilyn: NO!
Me: WHY NOT?!
Marilyn: I DON’T KNOW HOW TO TURN OFF MY BRAIN.


Me: *accidentally pulling her hair as I remove a pin*
Marilyn: Ouch!
Me: Sorry, I’m a man, I’m not good at that.
Marilyn: NOTHING’S GOOD WITH MANS.


Marilyn: *in the bathroom* Finished!
Me: *stops eating dinner, goes to bathroom, wipes*
Marilyn: I’m joking! I’m not finished! I was singing a song that goes, “Finished!” It’s so funny! Haha!
Me: *returns to living room, continues eating*
Marilyn: Finished!
Me: *stops eating, goes to bathroom, wipes*
Marilyn: Haha! I’m joking! …
[etc]


[at the seaside]
Marilyn: Daddy?
Me: Yes?
Marilyn: Punch that seagull.
Me: No.


Me: Goddammit Marilyn! If you keep behaving like this we’ll send you to a convent!
Marilyn: What’s a convent?
Me: It’s like — it’s like a school, but only for girls and you sleep there at night.
Marilyn: That sounds amazing!
Me: No it’s not! You stay there for months! Months! You understand?
Marilyn: Like a sleepover?
Me: Yes! I mean no! It’s nothing like a sleepover!
Marilyn: I’m so excited! I’ve always wanted to go to a convent!
Me: You don’t understand. You wouldn’t see mummy and me for ages.
Marilyn: For how long?
Me: I don’t know. Months. Years.
Marilyn: Oh.
Me: Yeah. Now you get it.
Marilyn: Daddy?
Me: What.
Marilyn: You’re going to miss me when I’m at the convent. 
Me: …
Marilyn: You’re going to miss me so much.


[dropping off at school]
Me: Do you have PE today?
Marilyn: I have French, then Pop, then PE.
Me: Pop? What’s Pop?
Marilyn: It’s when we pretend to be happy.
Me: Wait — what?
Marilyn: We pretend to smile and to eat ice cream and all the things that make us happy.
Me: So, let me get this straight. At school, they’re teaching you to pretend to be happy?
Marilyn: Yes!
Me: Wow. That’s… dystopian.
Marilyn: What’s dystopian?
Me: Well, it’s when the future for our children has been ruined by the greed and selfishness of previous generations.
Marilyn: What?
Me: Never mind. Have a great day!