There are certain things prenatal and parenting classes don’t prepare you for. Oh sure, they cover the basics, like childbirth (“Husbands, get out of the way and let her do her thing. Whatever unhelpful colorful terms she calls you, that is your new identity. Live with it.”), or proper disciplinary techniques (“Sweetie, what have I told you about licking Daddy’s friends?”), or basic nutritional values (“Oh, that Pop-Tart has ‘fruit filling’? Knock yourself out.”)
But I’ve never taken a class or read a book or gotten advice on a new era that has invaded our home, our lives, and our psyches:
I’m talking about the curse of the sticker book.
If you don’t have a female offspring, you may not know about the sticker fascination. My sons played with sticks, not stickers. Any adhesive-based recreation they participated in as preschoolers usually involved their own mucus. If I’d ever seen them with a googly-eyed unicorn affixed to their person, I would have immediately signed them up for military school.
But it doesn’t work that way with little girls. Apparently little girls come with a built-in gene that causes them to hone in on a sheet of colorful peel-off scraps of gummy paper shrapnel like a politician hones in on a photo op (“Get some footage of me cooking this steak. Remind me again which end of the spatula I’m supposed to hold?”).
In my world, I have resigned myself to the fact that roughly 75% of my possessions are going to be covered with stickers. At first, it was adorable. Here’s how the sticker fascination progressed:
Encounters 1-99: (Haven) “Daddy! I have a sticker for you!” (Me) “Oh sweetheart, that’s BEAUTIFUL. Thank you so much for this sticker! Let’s put it right on my chest so that everyone can see the love you have for me and vice versa!”
Encounters 100-499: (Haven) “Daddy! I have a sticker for you!” (Me) “Oh thank you so much! I love it! Here, let’s put it on this little sticker diorama that came in your sticker book. Wouldn’t that be great?”
Encounters 500-999: (Haven) “Daddy! I have a sticker for you!” (Me) “FineJustPutItHereOnMyLegWithTheOther60YouJustAttachedToMe.”
Encounters 1000 and above: (Haven) “Daddy! I have a st…” (Me) *door slams, car squeals out of the neighborhood*
It’s not that I don’t absolutely love my daughter and her enthusiasm for all things sparkly and colorful. It’s that these blasted infernal stickers cover every square inch of my life. There are stickers on my clothes. Stickers on my walls. Stickers on my floors. This morning in my half asleep drunken early morning stupor I thought I’d found a leech on my arm in the shower. Nope, just a Lamby sticker from her Doc McStuffins I Feel Better 40 Bajillion Sticker Playpack.™
The places she sticks her stickers show me that she’s not yet capable of wise judgment. That Barbie Jeep sticker you just stuck to the screen of my laptop? That’s like a college dude getting “Britnee” tatted to his chest: such a great idea in the moment, but all his friends know he’ll regret it five minutes later.
I know that from the time I arrive home until the time she goes to bed, I will transform from a normal mortal with semi-clear skin to a man with polka dots and pink puppies and Peppa Pig adhered to my chin, my cheeks, my forehead, my bald spot, my elbows, my knees…you get my drift. More than once I’ve attempted to have a Serious Adult Conversation with friends or neighbors, only to be afraid that Dora and Boots are hanging out above my right eyebrow.
There is no end in sight. It’s not like you can buy one sticker. You can go to Target and get six million stickers for a dollar. Based on her current inventory, she could apply one sticker per second for the rest of her life and she wouldn’t run out until she’s 274. There are currently more stickers in our house than there are NFL players on suspension. I would send her to a 12 step program for sticker addicts, but then I’m afraid they’d give her a gold star for completing it, and then we’re back to square one.
And to make matters worse, this weekend she was invited to participate in a Sticker Exchange Club. That’s right: two of my fellow pastors have allowed their daughters to enter the seedy underground of the sticker black market, and they’re dragging my kid along with them. I read the invitation, and it’s like a sticker chain letter (“You send eight sheets of stickers to eight friends, and then they send eight sheets back to you, and meanwhile your parents are slowly going insane.”). It’s a Ponzi scheme for preschoolers. These pint sized pigtailed Bernie Madoffs have figured out how to take an insufferable situation and make it exponentially worse.
My baby girl is four, and based on my wife’s childhood stories, we’re in for at least six more years of sticker shock. And I would voice my disapproval right now, in this moment, but for the sake of my daughter and my love for what she loves, I’ll save my complaints for the internet and will remain silent in real life.
Especially since a purple hippopotamus just fused my lips together.