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Friday, September 22, 2006 | I received a real education this week – and I’m still paying for it.

My daughter is very intelligent for her age. Can’t say the same for me.

I’d say she’s probably more intelligent than me, mainly because her mind isn’t filled up with useless trivia (such as “Who are the two show business families where the grandparents, parents and kids all had No. 1 hits?” Answer: The Nelsons (Ozzie, Ricky and the Nelson twins; and the Boone family: Red Foley, Pat Boone and Debby Boone).

Because she seems so smart and so with it, I sometimes assume too much and, frankly, don’t use common sense.

For instance, a few weeks ago, I was trying to get her to brush her teeth by telling a story about the evils of bad dental hygiene. So I told the tale of the little girl who never brushed her teeth.

In the tale, the little girl who never brushed her teeth suffered indignities such as cavities and gingivitis but I could tell by the glazed expression on my daughter’s face that she wasn’t getting it.

So I tried to make my point by using a powerful image that she could relate to. I tried to think of the stinkiest, worst thing that might result from not brushing one’s teeth. Finally, I looked outside and saw one of our two cats answering Mother Nature’s call and a light bulb went over my head.

My wife, in retrospect, considers me a dim bulb.

That’s because I told my daughter, “And because the little girl never brushed her teeth, no one wanted to kiss her because her breath smelled like cat poop.”

“Cat poop?” said Alex

“Cat poop,” confirmed daddy. “You don’t want YOUR breath to smell like cat poop, do you?”

“Nooooooo,” said Alex, who immediately ran to the bathroom in order to brush her gums with vim and vigor (and, of course, some toothpaste).

I smiled at myself and gave myself a “Father of the Year” pat on the back.

Flash forward a few days later.

I come home from a hard day of work and my wife greets me and gives me a moment to collect my thoughts. Then she drops the bomb.

“Did you teach Alex to say someone’s breath smells like cat poop?”

“Uh, I was using that as part of a cautionary tale about the dangers of not brushing her teeth.”

“Uh, right. Well, guess what? She told Grandma her breath smells like cat poop.”

My self-image as a caring, gifted father once again came tumbling down and I expressed myself as articulately as possible.

“Yeesh.”

“Yeesh is right. Do you want to raise a rude little girl?”

I thought for a moment.

“Uh, no.”

“She’s a little girl. She takes everything literally. And she called you on it. Grandma asked her, ‘Where did you learn that someone’s breath smells like cat poop?’ and she said, ‘Daddy!’”

Well, I thought, at least she’s learning to quote someone accurately. Maybe she’ll be a journalist.

But my wife knocked me out of my thoughts.

“I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking this will make a great column.”

Oops. She caught me. So I change the subject.

“What should I do?”

“Well, don’t use words like ‘cat poop.’”

“Should I apologize to your mom?”

“I don’t think you should say anything to her, or Alex. But be more careful about what you say to her.”

Then she walks out of the room, leaving me to my thoughts.

When something like this happens, I like to use the situation for spiritual growth. Then I look around for someone else to blame.

I see Buster, one of our two cats, looking at me like, “You are so busted!”

But while I will take my punishment like a man from my wife, I refuse to kowtow to a cat. Of course, I let the cat know in no uncertain terms.

“You! It’s your fault. If you didn’t stink up the backyard so much, I wouldn’t have brought up cat poop in the first place.”

Buster looks at me like I’m an idiot and says the kitty equivalent of “I am out of here,” and scampers away.

It’s been a few days since the dreaded “cat poop breath incident” and, so far, Alex hasn’t used the word since. Let’s hope I’m out of the woods.

David Moye is a La Mesa-based writer who usually has a good relationship with his cats. You can reach him at moyemail@cox.net. Or, send a letter to the editor.

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