There were signs of trouble early on.
At three, we asked what she wanted to be for Halloween.
"King", she said.
"Oh, you mean queen, honey."
"No, I mean king."
Shortly afterward, I was reading her Where the Wild Things Are for the ten thousandth time.
"You skipped a page, daddy."
"Honey, I have been reading this book to my kids for 25 years. I know this book by heart. I DID not miss a page."
She reaches over and turns the page back. I had indeed skipped a page.
"Now tell me I'm right", says she who will be King.
At seven, going on seventeen, she is all girl.
Which means shopping is the national pastime for her.
Having fathered both genders, I have become convinced there is a shopping gene in females that males just don't have.
Taking boys shopping is just asking for trouble. It is another opportunity for mayhem. I've seen 'em run down the grocery store aisles with both arms stretched wide to see how much they can pull off the shelves. Boys like to destroy things. So if that's what you want to see happen, take them to a place where there are new things and they will soon reduce it all to rubble.
Girls, a whole different matter.
Like today. She who will be King announced this morning that we were going shopping today. And she had coupons, no less.
First, the pet store.
One she had already cased out with her mom. She knew exactly what she was about to do to me.
Just before the pet store, we pass Bartel's Harley Davidson, one of the best dealerships in the country.
"Sweet ride", she says as we pass a chromed out custom bike out front. This gives me hope.
We get to the pet store, and it is a cool place. She takes time to show me all around, but finally gets to the point.
She wants a rabbit. Big time.
And who doesn't. Soft, cuddly, adorable. She'll get one eventually. But she wanted this little dude TODAY.
She got him out of the hutch and was cuddling him. Then before I knew what was happening she had put him in my hands. A pro she is.
"Not going to happen today, honey."
"But you could get some help and build a cage for him and we could take him home now", she responded in that perfect logic that traps an unsuspecting man.
"Well, let's check with Mom first. There will always be bunnies available."
"Yeah, I know. They breed like crazy", says she who will be King. (Did she just have the birds and bees talk with me?)
So we escape with no bunny, and I am heading to Harley land.
We walk into the showroom and the blood leaves my brain as I lust after the chrome, the Screaming Eagle packages, the twisted pipes, the custom leather seats. For a moment, I forgot she was there.
I turned and there she was standing, arms crossed.
"Do you see my foot?", she asks. It is tapping rapidly. She ain't interested in what Harley's got.
Next stop, Toys r Us. "I got a coupon, Daddy. It's going to save you so much money. Isn't that great?"
"We were here Saturday. We are spending less than ten bucks today. Pick one thing."
"But Daddy, the coupon is good for 10% off only if you spend $50 or more."
I managed to stabilize myself and hold ground. "Less than ten bucks. One thing."
Have any idea how long it can take a 7 year old girl to decide on one thing in the Barbie section?
I finally have to give her the two minute warning. "Two minutes, and we're outta here. PICK something."
"Daddy, which one of the Barbies do you like best?"
Fifteen minutes later after learning for the first time that they aren't all named Barbie, I suggest Teresa, and she who will be King agrees.
Last stop of the day was at Target to pick up a few things for me. She wasn't at all into this program because she knew this was going to be b-o-r-i-n-g. So she watched Wizards of Waverly Place on YouTube on my iPhone. Pretty much the same thing I did when my mom dragged me to Woolworth's fifty years ago.
We stop by the pharmacy to pick up the last thing. A mother of two boys is just ahead of me. One about 6, one about 4. And she has one in the oven. The four year old is having a grand time ramming her shopping basket into the back of her legs.
The mom looks at she who will be King, then her two hoodlums, then gives me a knowing look. She balls her fist like Jackie Gleason used to do when he would bellow, "You're going to the moon, Alice!"
She got control of them both and made them stand at attention by her side at the pharmacy counter. As we left with our package, I noticed the four year old pull a giant booger out of his nose. And yep. Ate it.
Thought the mom was going to faint.
I walked to the car with she who will be King and thanked God for parenthood. It never gets old.