I like kids, and I’m pretty sure that kids like me. I can say this with confidence because I am around kids all the time, and I’m starting to develop an understanding of their behavior and their unusual way of communicating. Most of my friends who are my age have kids, and there are a lot of kids in the bike shop extended family. As the years go by, new kids are popping up all around me, and as a result, the parties and gatherings I attend include more and more of them. At times, the kids seem to outnumber the adults, like when there are five exuberant kids wearing costumes, running in and out of a room full of eight exhausted adults, two of whom are half asleep, drinking red wine, knitting baby blankets, and listening to Leonard Cohen albums. And I’m around kids every day at the shop, as they come in with their parents looking for a new bike or a new helmet or the potty. I like them all, and as I said before, they all like me. I am pretty sure of it.
Two kids I especially like, and who especially like me, are Elizabeth and Clara, my two lovely nieces, who are 7 and 4 years old, respectively. Even though Clara refuses to hug me when she first sees me, and bellows and writhes and kicks, if I pick her up and hug her anyway, she starts to warm up to me after an hour or so, and eventually starts to climb all over me as though I were a jungle gym. That is the moment when I realize, despite her initial reaction upon seeing me, that she truly likes me, so much so, that she doesn’t want to stop climbing all over me, even after I repeatedly ask her to stop. I know Elizabeth likes me because she often says that she thinks I am weird, which according to her mom—and my lovely wife will back this up—means in kid speak that she thinks I am great. A young child screeching in terror at the sight of me and a slightly older child telling me I’m weird gave me the impression that they didn’t like me. Now I know that the opposite is true, that they actually do like me. I am pretty sure of it.
When it comes to babies, I used to think that they didn’t like me because whenever I held them, or whenever I tried to fit them with their first helmet, they immediately start to cry. This used to bother me quite a bit, but according to what I have been told by the moms of the crying babies—and my lovely wife will back this up—crying is not always a sign of dislike. No, it is simply because babies can’t speak, so they communicate through crying. The crying doesn’t necessarily mean that the baby doesn’t like me; rather the crying could very well mean that the baby is hungry, or perhaps a bit cold, or perhaps has just made a poopy. And the fact that they immediately stop crying when I hand them over is not because they are relieved to no longer be in my arms, it is, as I have been told by their moms, and again, my lovely wife will concur, simply because they have been distracted. Learning all this was a relief, since I was convinced that I had some kind of baby-repelling vibe going on, like clowns do. Now I know that it was all just a misunderstanding. I like babies, and I’d hate to think that I frighten them every time I look at them. It’s hard enough that I frighten most adults.
Now that I know kids actually do like me, and don’t actually think that I am weird, I feel pretty good about the fact that I am going to be a father soon, around Sept. 30 to be precise. That is the day my lovely wife is due to deliver our little girl, who we have dubbed Petunia until a more proper name is agreed upon. As far as little Petunia liking me, I am hoping she will, but my wife has assured me that she already does. She knows this because I have been singing to Petunia and apparently, Petunia likes it when I sing, which of course means that she likes me. Having been advised by many people that it is a good thing to sing to babies when they are in utero, I sing lots of songs, including the chorus to songs with names that can be substituted with Petunia. “My Sharona” becomes “My Petunia,” for example. “Julia” by the Beatles and “Gloria” by Them are also good ones. My singing, which my wife assures me is marvelous, usually results in a few solid kicks from Petunia, which I initially interpreted as meaning she doesn’t like my singing and wants me to stop. But apparently the contrary is true and the kicks suggest, as my wife explains, that Petunia in fact likes my singing and doesn’t want me to stop. This is a huge relief, as I love to sing.
It just goes to show you that things aren’t always as they seem. I used to think that babies and kids didn’t like me, and that my singing was deplorable. I now know that babies like me, kids like me, and my singing is marvelous. I am pretty sure of it.