My cousin’s baby (ie… my very small cousin, or whatever she is in the grand scheme of things, in relation to me) is quite persistent about spending time with me, and that baffles me. She went from shy and clutching her mom’s pant-leg to leading me by the hand through the house to show me things – Come See!
I’ve got pretty much no experience of babies. We see my cousin and her baby once or twice a year, so her growth, in my memory, goes in leaps and spurts. One day, she’s this tiny baby, and my cousin plops her into my arms the moment I try to do the polite “oooh! A baby!” conversation. I’m frozen in terror as this squidgy hairless pink cabbage patch doll stares up at me while shoving her entire fist into her mouth. I didn’t want to do the “Can I hold her?” part of the conversation, because I am partly alarmed and partly grossed out by babies. It seems as though there are good chances of me dropping her, or in some way damaging her, or, at the other end of the spectrum, of her going poop. I have this awful hazy idea that holding the baby is like playing Hot Potato (… pass it on… pass it on…), and I don’t want to be the one holding her when the song stops. In case you didn’t guess, the song stops when the diaper needs to be changed, and if this game were to exist, the person holding the baby ‘gets’ to change the diaper. My parents played this game with each other when I was a baby, so it seems likely.
The next time I saw her, she was walking, but still in the super fragile state that freaks me out with babies. It is amazing how quickly a baby seems to grow when you don’t see them often… all of a sudden, she’s four, can coherently (relatively coherently) form sentences that people other than her mom and gamma (ie, my aunt, the grandmother) can understand, and can open doors on her own.
Gabby calls my sisters and I ‘da duwls’… that is the closest spelling I can think of. To translate that from lisp (or whatever the word is for replacing a lot of letters with ‘d’), she calls us ‘the girls’. She loves spending time with ‘da duwls’, which is baffling to da duwls, since we have zero baby experience, and don’t lie about our dislike of watching Toy Story II more than once per day. Being bigger than her, we do abuse our ability to switch to a different movie when she asks for a second round of Toy Story II, and being more cunning than her, we act surprised when some other child-appropriate movie comes on… and tell her we can’t fix the problem. It won’t be long before she will figure out that the movie doesn’t need to be taken out in order to start it over again, but I’m hoping that by that time, she’ll have grown out of the urge to watch anything seven times in a row.
She likes us a lot, but has a fair bit of confusion trying to differentiate between us, especially with Tall Sister and I basically sharing the same facial features. I do like Gabby – she’s very cute – but at the same time, being around her re-establishes the fact that I’m NOT ready to be a parent. I can deal with getting markers out and nodding approvingly as she colours the cat’s tail blue, gives the little boy a green moustache and an epically red face, and answering the “Why?” and “What’s that?” questions she comes up with. And when she asks awkward questions like “What’s he doing?” when my dog is cleaning his manly bits (what’s left of them), I blank out for a few moments, while trying to think of something more appropriate to say than “looking for his balls”. I stared into her tiny wide blue eyes and I settled for “Cleaning his business… aren’t you glad you get to use a bathtub and soap and water instead of your tongue?” Aren’t I a dood duwl? Thank goodness she didn’t ask me to explain ‘business’.
When I’m around Gabby, I also seriously regret the abbreviation of my name used by family. Because, with the inevitable issues pronouncing things, the few times Gabby remembers my name, it is morphed into Owie. I’m like an injury waiting to happen, and it doesn’t matter how excited they are or sound when they say it, it still sounds like someone jabbed them with a stick. Luckily, she rarely remembers our individual names – we really are ‘de duwls’… one entity with the ability to do three independent tasks. It’s like the Borg, only with less technology, and more being sat on and getting the right colour of marker out.
My cousin has to deal with a lot of the less cute things about Gabby. While I can sit back and find her bacon-hoarding tendency hilarious, her mom has to try to explain to her that she isn’t allowed to hide bacon under the kitchen table, while mentally adding ‘clean top and bottom of the table with bleach’ to her list of things to do. I might be the one who suggested to Gabby that her uncle Dan might be trying to steal her bacon from her. But Dan did nothing to dissuade her from this, so clearly the potential was already there.
One nice thing about Gabby is that, living in my aunt’s farm house, she’s got a lot of experience with dogs. So I didn’t need to be overly attentive when she was petting Gwynn or playing with him, because she’d already learned the all-important lessons children should learn about being around dogs. She didn’t poke him in the eye, or the nose, or in the mouth, she didn’t grab his ears or his tail and pull, and she didn’t do any of the generally abusive things small children will do to animals. She also didn’t give him any of her easter chocolates or jelly beans. She petted him gently, tried shrilly to get him to sit, played the ‘name that colour’ game (it’s a short one… he’s only got two colours, after all), and generally gave Gwynn a good experience of being around small children. She is probably the reason why he watches small children so avidly when we’re out on walks – he’s hoping desperately that some tiny people with bacon-grease coated hands will once again come up and let him clean their faces.