Monday, September 24, 2012

The impression that I don’t get

“I’m Miss Lisa,” my three-year-old son Evan said a few nights ago.  Then he just stood there, staring at me.

“Are you being Miss Lisa right now?” I asked.  Miss Lisa is one of the teachers at his daycare, a woman who somehow manages to care for four infants at the same time, which seems a lot like juggling four chainsaws all day, except chainsaws would demand less attention.  And be much quieter.

Evan nodded and continued standing in silence.  This was his version of an impression.  I’d never really noticed Miss Lisa just standing there like that before, but Evan seemed to think he was nailing it.

“Now do Richard Nixon,” I said.  More silence.  Somewhere, Rich Little was breathing a little easier, confident that this young upstart wouldn’t be stealing his gigs anytime soon.

“You be Mommy,” Evan said, breaking character.  It took me a moment to respond -- I’d been so entranced by Evan’s deft mimicry, I’d almost forgotten who I was talking to.

In the next room, my wife Kara had our infant son Zack in his high chair, feeding him a bowl of oatmeal.  In a minute, the oatmeal would run out, then the screaming would begin, growing louder until someone corked the screamhole with a bottle.

For the moment though, it was quiet.  I thought about how to do an impression of Kara that would resonate with Evan.

“I’m Mommy.  Stop doing that dangerous thing you’re doing,” I said.

Evan just blinked.  It was my first impression since the brief period in college that I’d decided I could do a decent “Sling Blade” guy (“Some folks call it a sling blade.  I call it a kaiser blade, pass me another beer, mmmm hmmm.”), and I’d bombed.

Without missing a beat, Kara’s voice came from the other room: “I’m Daddy.  Do whatever you want.”
I had to admit, she’d really gotten to the essence of my parenting style.  Kara and I both laughed, and the variety hour might have continued if the oatmeal hadn’t run out right then.

No matter how much food you give Zack, when it runs out, he will scream.  This happens because babies, as it turns out, are really horrible people.  They’re quite unconcerned with your feelings, or whether you have a preference for the decibel level at which information is conveyed to you.

“Oh, you rearranged your entire life to care for me?  And now you’re suppressing your gag reflex while you shovel odd-colored mush into my mouth, when you should be watching the movie in the Netflix envelope that’s gathering dust on the kitchen counter?  Well, as soon as I see the bottom of that bowl, I’m going to show you my gratitude.  Oh, yes, the entire neighborhood will know of my gratitude,” they say, with their eyes.

Zack is actually a wonderful baby, and we couldn’t be more fortunate.  Which is exactly the point.  Even a wonderful baby loves nothing more than to scream in your face, preferably after waking you up.

Eventually, babies learn to talk and things greatly improve, but until then, they are pleasant about 20% of the time, which is the window during which their parents take pictures to post to Facebook.  Babies have excellent PR people.

As Zack screamed from his chair, Evan ran over to dance around and entertain him.

“Look at me, Zack, look at me!” he said, running around in circles and waving his arms in the air.

Zack stopped screaming and smiled at his big brother.  With each day, the ratio of pleasantness improves.  By the time they turn three, kids are fun more like 80% of the time.  I imagine that this improvement continues until the child becomes embarrassed to be seen with you in public.

You can do your best Mike Todd at

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