Spilled milk, with prejudice

Marshall Brickeen
Jul 26, 2019 · 4 min read

When my toddler throws down, she’s throwing milk.

(Getty Images)

“Mom!” my four-year-old shouted. “Dad’s abusing Josie!”

How did Ricki learn the word abuse? I wondered. And how often does she use it in connection with me?

“What are you doing?” my wife asked as she hurried into the room.

“Practicing medicine.”

I held my flailing two-year-old with one arm and waved a drop dispenser in my free hand. Red drops of cherry-flavor antibiotics dotted Josie’s face, hair and shirt. So far I was 2-for-50 in hitting her mouth.

“She’s supposed to take ten millimeters every four hours,” I panted.

“Ten milliliters,” Allie corrected.

“I’ve heard it both ways.”

“Not from an adult.”

I gave Allie a nasty look, which is hard to maintain when she’s giggling at me.

“Either way,” I continued as Josie struggled, “She needs a full dropper. That’s almost impossible without strapping her down.”

“This is not how you give a toddler medicine,” Allie chuckled.

“Do you want to show me how it’s done?” I challenged.

Allie shrugged, as if it were no big deal.

I released Josie. She bolted like a wild animal. Allie casually reached out and caught her by the back of the shirt. In a smooth motion, Allie spun our daughter around, scooped her up, and cradled Josie in her arms. I was really impressed by this ninja move. And a little intimidated.

“Josie,” Allie said softly, “I need you to take your medicine, so your sore throat will get better. Understand?”

Josie nodded cautiously. Allie reached out to me, like a surgeon demanding a scalpel. I handed the dropper full of red goo.

“That’s the same thing I told her!” I protested.

“Daddy said I — ”

Allie popped the dropper in Josie’s mouth and squeezed out all of the contents.

“Mommy!” Josie shrieked and twisted her little face in disgust. “That’s bad!”

“It’s cherry flavored,” I offered.

“Medicine always tastes like medicine,” my four-year-old piped up. “It doesn’t matter what color it is.”

“Thanks for the support, Ricki,” I muttered.

“Sorry sweetie,” Allie cooed. “You need it to get better. Drink some milk to get the taste out.”

Allie handed our toddler a sippy cup. Josie looked suspiciously at both of us then fled the room with her milk consolation prize.

“I don’t understand why Josie didn’t freak out when you said the same thing I did,” I mumbled.

“You can’t keep talking about it,” Allie explained. “If you do, she has too much time to think about it and she’ll object when she finally sees it coming toward her.”

“Right … women are like that.”

“So stick the tiny dropper in fast and eject everything right away,” Allie said sourly. “You know how to do that.”

An hour later Allie left to go to dinner with her mother. I wasn’t worried about administering the next dose; I had a slight 25 v. 180 pound weight advantage. And if I couldn’t quite get the red goo down on the first try, the only witness would be my four-year-old … who had somehow learned to report abuse.

“I”m hungry,” Josie said three hours later.

“Good,” I smiled convincingly. “Here’s some nice delicious milk!”

I handed Josie her sippy cup. Josie drank a little and scowled at me.

“It tastes bad.”

“It’s the same milk you’ve been drinking all day,” I lied.

“It tastes like medicine.”

“No it doesn’t. Try it again.”

You try it.”

“I don’t want any milk.”

“Because it tastes bad.”

“No thanks, I’m not hungry.”

“Just try it,” Josie insisted.

I took a tiny sip. It tasted more like medicine than milk, and absolutely nothing like cherries.

“It’s fine,” I lied.

“I want new milk.”

“Finish that first and I’ll get you some more.”


Josie glared defiantly at me. She’s looking more like her mother every day.

“I. Want. New. Milk.”

“Josie, you’re not getting any new milk until that milk is all gone.”

Josie popped the top off her sippy cup. She looked me in the eye as she poured the contents on the floor.

“That milk is all gone,” Josie said flatly. “Now I get new milk?”

I rushed forward and hugged my kid. I hugged her because I love her strength and grit and wit, and because like her mother she scares me in a good way.

“Am I in trouble?” Josie asked.

“No, sweetie,” I said as I cradled her in my arms. “You don’t get in trouble for standing up for yourself. But you will have to take your medicine soon.”

“Okay,” Josie smiled. “I thought — ”

I slammed the dropper into her mouth and squeezed.

If you like my Bad Dad humor, I have a lot more like this on Medium and a new one comes out every week. Here’s last week’s story: Arrested Marriage Development.

I also read and respond to all comments, so keep them coming!

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