Lately it seems that someone – more than likely at three in the morning when I was fast asleep – flipped a switch that transformed Annie from a baby into a full fledged toddler. This change has been awesome to witness, but it has also seriously complicated life around these parts.

I first noticed this change after Annie made an ill-advised attempt to put on Mrs. Potato Head’s glasses and poked herself in the eye. An hour later, after the crying was long over, she climbed up next to me on the couch and pressed her head against my shoulder.

“Mrs. Potato… Glasses… Eye… Annie cry.”

Whoa. Did she really just relate to me what happened earlier?

“I remember, sweetie,” I finally replied. “You stuck yourself in the eye and it hurt, huh?”

“Yeah, Dadda. Owie.”

That was only the beginning of our conversations.  Her little voice now can be heard calling out to me all day:

“Dadda! Come hereeeeee!”

It doesn’t matter if I’m on a call in the office, talking to someone at the door, or, um,  in the restroom. Over and over she yells,  “Dadda! Come hereeee!”

When I return to her side she squeals, “Dadda! Let’s go!” then pulls me by the finger to her latest interest. Today it was drawing together on her chalkboard, an activity that quickly morphed into the “Name Something You Want Daddy To Draw” game.

“Dadda! Draw Santa!”

“Draw a Christmas Tree, Dadda!”

“Draw Muno! Draw DJ Lance! Draw Foofa!”

“Draw Spencer! Draw a snowman! Draw a dinosaur!”

Behold! Our artistic genius.

I drew, and drew, and drew, and she squealed with delight no matter how poor a rendering I created of her desired subject. But the minute I tried to stop I heard, “Again! Dadda! Again!”

That is how it always is. It doesn’t matter if I play with her for five minutes or over an hour. When I have to stop she falls onto the ground and cries like I’ve broken her little heart.

Before I had kids I would see parents ignore their kid as he or she yelled, “Mama look. Mama Look! LOOK, MAMA!,” and I used to judge them and pledge never to be that way. But being a parent is hard. I love that Annie is coming into her own and wants to explore the world with her old man, but part of me is totally exhausted by this new Annie.

I feel very guilty about this, especially when I think about Maddie. Who am I to step away from playing with Annie when I will never get to play with Maddie again? How amazing would it be to draw with Maddie? There is nothing I wouldn’t give for that…  I can’t even type “draw with Maddie” without tearing up.

There’s a balance somewhere to found. Balance that is fair for me, Annabel, and even Maddie. But I haven’t found it yet.