I don't have to tell you, little kids are adorable. They're lovable, hugable, kissable. Sometimes, you just want to pinch the hell out of their cheeks. They fill us so full of gushy, mushy corniness that we want to take them, hold them, and care for them for decades at a time no matter how much grief, gray hair, and money they cost us.
I also don't have to tell you, Poohbutt's no different. That girl has me wrapped so tightly around her finger, I fear I may be a bit unhinged. I can have her bouncing on my knee while looking at pictures of her with a big, ole Proud Papa smile on my face. It's sad, but true. Cheesy and maybe a little egotistic. But I'm still utterly gaga over my little "Goo-Goo" Machine.
But I also think that Pooh's at an incredibly intriguing age. Sixteen months. It seems just like yesterday, I had this crying, crapping lump on my hands that I had to carry, change, and feed every two minutes. Now, all of the sudden, I have a little person running around and being all ... persony.
She walks! She talks! She runs! And can still slice this tomato!
It's just a whole new, fascinating experience for me to watch the world through a child's eyes once again. To observe the discovery. And to see, once again, what a challenge the world was to comprehend and navigate.
It's just that, at 16 months, our children are yet to acquire guile. Whatever's going on in their little minds plays out in their little faces. And, without experience to modulate their emotions, they suffer such extremes it's utterly fascinating. When they're happy, they're ecstatic. When they're frustrated with whether the blue cup goes inside the red or vice versa, they can and will go apeshit. When they're hurt, they scream as though you'd shoved bamboo under their fingernails. And when Poohbutt wakes up in the morning, runs with all the energy in her little legs, and squeals, "Hi, Da!" with the biggest smile on her face, you'd think it was the best thing that will happen in her life--and makes it the greatest thing that happens in mine.
And you know, at 16 months, these little tykes are starting to develop their own little personalities. She loves to dance to all kinds of craziness: Henry Mancini, The Slits, Seal. She loves singing Aesop Rock's "Boom, Boom, Boom." And, while I don't understand most of them, Poohbutt loves to crack jokes. She'll do anything for a laugh. She'll do her little "moonwalk," her Chubby Checker imitations. And the faces this girl makes.
And you can't help but wonder if we actually develop personalities this early. When she's being all full of tantrum, being all willful as though her name were "Stonewall" Campbell, and throwing everything on the floor, I sure as hell hope not. When she's cleaning up all her toys at the end of the night and starts taking to Mama's training her to do the baseboards, I'm definitely hopeful. And, when she's being all adorable and a cut-up, I can't help but wondering, is this a permanent thing? I mean, was yours truly this witty and acerbic when he, too, was shitting his own pants? One has to wonder.
Especially when it comes to the latest development in the Poohbutt Saga ...
My daughter has become a flirt.
Those of you who've read "Protecting Your Poohbutt" know I am forever vigilant over my daughter's honor. So, you know I keep my eye on this shit. And I have indeed observed some very inter-arresting new developments in my daughter's development.
I noted before that children at Pooh's age are without guile. They couldn't deceive if they tried--and I wouldn't put it past the little buggers to be trying even at this early stage. But those little darlings can be coy.
Now, while Poohbutt is the most precious, dearest thing that's ever happened to me and I love her to death, I'm not going to claim she has any special gifts of adorableness, or anything like that (like parents who are always trumpeting how their kid is "really smart for her age"--as often as you hear that, you'd think we lived in a nation of geniuses--yet we elected Bush twice). Kids are adorable. People love them. And, to be frank, people are often captivated by seeing a black man care for his own child. It's something they've never seen before. They can't help but stare.
So yeah, Pooh and I can sometimes get a bit of attention. I'm generally not one who likes the attention (I mean, the other day, two women were utterly spellbound watching Pooh eating broccoli), but what can you do? Folks like babies.
They smile and wave and sometimes act a fool. Seriously, it's amazing what toddlers can get perfectly normal, grown adults do. Sometimes, when we're in a restaurant, I'll look up from my own plate and see a grown woman making the silliest faces or a grown man doing a silly little jig hoping to elicit a chuckle from the girl.
What I've also noticed is how she actually encourages these fools. We'll be sitting there, eating a fine Jamaican, Italian, Chinese, Greek, Indian meal, and then I'll see that my little, dear, innocent Pooh staring holes into someone. She's picked her target. She'll stare and stare while they're mindlessly eating. Then, I guess feeling the heat, they'll suddenly look up. They'll see Pooh and start contorting themselves in the weirdest ways all to make my daughter laugh.
Then my little, dear, innocent Pooh will give a little half-turn away from the person, cock a shoulder, tilt her head down, and give a little titter. Sometimes, she even bats her eyelashes. I shit you not.
These fools fall for it every time. They start laughing in earnest, and coo to me, "Oooh, she's so shy."
She plays this little "shy" act of hers at pretty much every restaurant we go. And her victims run the gamut: sex, sexuality, age, race, religion, ethnicity, none of the stuff that divides us when it comes to Poohbutt. Black women have done somersaults to entertain her; white women bust into the Electric Slide; Iranian men have danced the mazurka. What can I say? Poohbutt's a uniter, not a divider. I'm thinking of sending her to Israel and have her bat her lashes for peace.
This week, she's also become a dessert magnet. Pooh has a little fan club at our local Chinese buffet. Whenever we walk in, the waitress's faces light up. They smile and wave. They come by the table and try to entertain her. They constantly fall for her "shy" routine. So, it was no surprise when one of them snuck Pooh a seaweed-flavored Konjac brown rice roll. I think it's supposed to be a sweet. It's not.
What is sweet, though, is the caramel-anise cookies we got at a local Peruvian rotisserie the other day. Pooh was on fire that day. She had the customers and the employees dancing around. Even the cooks waved their tongs at her. The waitress, who spent a solid 20 minutes playing peek-a-boo rewarded Pooh's good behavior and eyelash batting with these cookies that rocked Daddy's world.
Now, I'll admit I'm a bit ambivalent about this newfound flirting and her being rewarded with sweets. We do live in a world where I will ultimately have to teach her that it is dangerous to take candy from strangers. And I don't want to teach her to use her supposed cuteness to get what she wants in life. I want her to grow up using her brains!
But for now she's only 16 months. Besides, I'm broke and I love free food. I'm trying to train the girl to get us a free meal or two down the road!
"Give it a little more ooomph! kid! Sell it! Sell it!"
Hell, you've seen this economy. Wish me luck!