I glanced over at Clara to see her reaction to the gymnastics routine we had just watched. She smiled up at me and then looked back down at the toothpaste tube she was holding in front of her.
I smiled and turned back to the TV and then suddenly my mind was able to process what I had just witnessed and looked back at the little girl.
“Clara, are you eating toothpaste?” I asked accusingly.
She blinked at me in shock, and then looked down at the open tube in her hands. “No!” she objected. She was apparently quite offended. “Why would I be eating toothpaste?”
“Clara, I know you are eating toothpaste, just stop it.”
She threw her hands in the air in disgust. “I can’t believe you think I’m eating toothpaste.”
I sighed, “Clara you have toothpaste all over your upper lip. How did it get there?”
She crossed her eyes and reached a hand up to her mouth. “I’m not eating it,” she said, more calmly this time. She eyed the white tips of her fingers and then ran her sleeve across her mouth. She pretended to go back to watching the Olympics and tried to casually let her hand with the toothpaste tube fall to her side, out of my sight.
I waited, still staring at her with tired fatherly eyes.
She glanced sideways at me few times to see if I was still watching.
“Clara, what are you doing with the toothpaste?”
She rolled her eyes. “Okay, I’m just doing this…” She lifted the tube up to her face and squeezed a little bit up her nose. “See? I’m just smelling it.” A smear of white paste rubbed along the underside of her nose and upper lip.
“Um yeah… Okay… So, that’s actually weirder and a lot more gross than eating it.” I reached out my hand. “Give me the toothpaste tube.”
She sighed and handed it to me.
I turned back to the television where a young girl just a few years older than Clara was somersaulting through the air after flipping off of a parallel bar. For a moment I wondered to myself if maybe someday, with enough hard work and practice and late nights spent at the gym, maybe with the right coaching and a ton of patience and determination and a lot of invested time and money, perhaps someday my Clara could learn to not squeeze toothpaste up her nose. I imagine this is the dream of every young parent as they watch the Olympics.