Note: For the first installment of Deep Thoughts on Fatherhood, go here.
1. A LITTLE LESS HONESTY, PLEASE: I took my three-year-old girl out to a furniture store with me a couple months ago, and at one point we came around the end of an aisle and found ourselves face-to-face with a portly middle-aged woman. My daughter extended her arm, and pointed her finger, and said in her outside-voice: “She’s fat!” We were about three feet apart. Facing each other. Ugh.
My daughter had commented before on bald men, tall men or strong men. But she had never before commented on a “big-boned” woman. I was mortified.
What exactly are you supposed to do at that moment? My mouth poured forth with apologies, and the woman looked slightly shaken. “That’s okay,” she said eventually, “she’s just telling the truth. I really should exercise more, shouldn’t I?” Which I thought was a fantastic response on her part. Once she was out of earshot, I told my little girl that what she had said was really not nice. I coached her on what to say, and we went and found the woman. “My daughter has something to tell you,” I said, and my daughter followed: “I’m sorry I wasn’t nice. You’re beautiful.”
2. BELLYBUTTON PASTE: This one’s not for the squeamish. As I’ve mentioned before, in the nine seconds that pass between the appearance of her “poop face” and when we place her on the changing table and unbutton her onesie, our second daughter defecates with such extraordinary force that she manages to coat her entire torso in a fine layer of brown. Well, one thing all parents know is that your newborn comes home from the hospital with a bellybutton that looks something like a purple, twisted, rotting ziti noodle. Eventually the ziti noodle falls off — by which point it merely looks like a raisin. Our elder daughter actually held the shriveled bit of umbilical cord in front of her open mouth in order to evoke a horrified reaction at the prospect she might eat it. Her gambit worked; she got the reaction she desired.
After the ziti-raisin is gone, however, you are supposed to let the bellybutton heal. You protect it from irritation by the diaper. And eventually you are allowed to wipe it gently with warm water. But it retains a discolored appearance for quite some time. We cleaned our second daughter’s bellybutton when we bathed her, and eventually I noticed that it was growing more discolored again.
Those of you with sicker minds are already going to see where this is going. I took a wet wipe and applied it to her belly button, and realized to my dismay that I was not wiping up bellybutton goo. I was wiping up several layers of what had escaped from her diaper over the past week. It had taken refuge in the concavity of her bellybutton and camouflaged itself as bellybutton goo in order to survive. A fantastic evolutionary mechanism, to be sure, but not one I’m eager to see again.
So let this be another word to the wise: keep wiping that bellybutton. Keep wiping the bellybutton.
3. THE EVIL EYE. My elder daughter has been early on just about everything. She started crawling at 5 months, 3 weeks; she started walking at 7 months, 10 days; she was speaking in Shakespearean English when the other kids her age could barely manage Limp Bizkit. She’s also taken to lying at an early age. I don’t know whether I should be proud of this.
It started with innocent declarations that mama really did say that she could have a bowl of ice cream right before bedtime, and daddy really did say that mama should give her all of her Halloween candy at once. Now, one of her favorite past-times is poking me in the eye. She asks me to “Show her the red part,” which means pulling my eyelids up or down, while looking the other way, so that all she sees are the red parts of the eye and inner eyelid. Then, when I can’t see anything, she pokes me in the eye.
When she first did this, she found my response hilarious. Now she asks to “see the red part,” and I ask her repeatedly whether she’s going to poke me in the eye. Smiling mischievously — she doesn’t exactly have a great poker-face — she insists she will not. Then of course she pokes me in the eye. She asks me to do it again, and again she insists she won’t try to poke me in the eye. How she thinks that she has any remaining credibility, I really don’t know. But I’ve discovered that it’s the most exquisite torture when I use one hand to grab hold of her wrists, and use the other hand to expose the reds of my eye. To see the eyes exposed, and not be able to poke them, drives her crazy.
4. MY DAUGHTER’S GIRL-CRUSH ON A MANNEQUIN. My daughter has also come early to the joys of the friend-crush: