Monday, October 20, 2008

Watch What You Say

I am about to toot my own horn, which is unusual for me, since a) I am usually so humble and reserved, and b) I have never owned, played, or even held a horn, and c) I am not musically gifted. Never have been, with the exception of some drunken karaoke. But the quality of my performance would also depend on the audience's level of inebriation as well.

Yet, a horn tooting I will go:

I am proud to say I have significantly curbed my swearing since Penelope arrived. Damn straight. That's quite an accomplishment for a man who formerly dropped the f-bomb enough to make George Carlin proud. Rest his genius soul.

Honestly, I swear so seldom, that hearing someone else do it around Penelope makes me cringe worse than fingernails on a chalkboard. Whoa!! Kiss your mother with that mouth?

I must admit there are slip-ups. Stub your toe, get splashed with some hot crackling olive oil, stuck in traffic, it's inevitable. You're gonna say "f**k." But I bet I say it a lot less than you do, potty mouth.

You see, babies are sponges. They observe and absorb everything you do and say. It's actually the little things you don't realize that come back to haunt you. Yes, babies are sponges. And I, to steal a quote from Seinfeld, am not spongeworthy. At least I wasn't pre-Penelope.

For instance, Penelope went through a phase where she insisted on dunking her hands in Luna's water bowl, and washing her face with it. Gross, right?

Yet, how many times do I have to tell her not to do that before she's going to absorb that concept? No matter what I said, or how I said it, there she was, splashing around in the dog's dish, and styling her hair with it.

Gross and annoying.

I actually think she started to do it on purpose, because she saw how much it bothered me. Trying to get a rise out of me, you know, for shits and giggles? So, I guess she was in fact observing and absorbing in that respect. She was observing and absorbing, and successfully executing, how to aggravate her father. Boy do they learn early.

One day it was non-stop, like a seagull diving into an ocean after a school of minnows. We were unpacking in the new house, it was a hot day, and Luna was panting away. So I was vigilant about her water. But there was Penelope, bathing in Luna's filth. After the fourth time I had had it. I shouted, which I also rarely do, believe it or not.


So Penelope went through a phase where she would say "no" like that any time she didn't want to do something. I couldn't escape it. But she just didn't say, "no." She said "NOOOOOOO!" Her brow furrowed, nose wrinkled, her little mouth making a perfect circle. These are the things she picks up from her dad.

That, and the lizard. One day at day care, they brought in a guy who had some reptiles. They send home a note with Penelope everyday, describing the kind of day she had. Her ups and downs, her sorrows and joys, her hopes and dreams. She really liked the lizard. She was petting it and laughing at it. So after I read that, I asked her, "Is this what the lizard does?" Then I made a goofy cross-eyed face and starting sticking my tongue in and out of my mouth really fast, like a lizard. And she picked it up instantly. She does the lizard on cue. All you have to do is ask and she smiles, and does the lizard. That's what she learns from her dad.

While we feel the good far outweighs the bad, day care does have its minor drawbacks. These kids obviously have to fight for toys, for affection, for attention, and I can just imagine the concept of sharing is probably at a premium. I envision something close to the chaos that eventually broke in "Lord of the Flies." A constant battle for the conch.

As a result, Penelope uses the word "mine" a lot. Seems harmless, but it's not a pleasant word when an 18-month old child is shouting it at you because she wants a sip of your drink, a taste of your food, to sit in your seat.

You tolerate the "mines" of the world. You endure them, because you eventually get rewarded big time. She'll say or do something that blows the lizard right out of the swamp. When I came downstairs on the day of my birthday this year, my wife and my sister wished me a "Happy Birthday." I then looked at Penelope, and followed up with my own version of "Happy Birthday," which I say like Frosty the Snowman does when he comes to life thanks to the magic in that old silk hat they found.

After I said it, Penelope smiled, and repeated "Happy Birthday." Indeed. Happy Birthday to me.

Watch what you say, because you could just get the best of surprises.

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