See the Booty
Before Isaac learned to talk, he and I developed our own language, one that was more physical than verbal.
"Ungh” meant, “Get off.”
“Hiya” meant, “I’m going to clobber you now.”
“Ouch” and “Waaaah!” meant basically the same thing: “I’m in excruciating pain but please don’t tell mom.”
Although he and I had no problems understanding each other, most of the women in our family didn’t seem to get it. I remember visiting Laurie’s parents house and she’d lean over and whisper, “Don’t you think you’re playing a little rough with him?” When she said this, I was dangling him upside down from one of his ankles while he laughed and screamed at the top of his lungs, “PUT! ME! DOWN!”
While I agreed that sometimes our rough housing might have gotten a little out of hand, I took great pride that I had found a way to bond with my son, regardless of how rough it was. Having not been around little kids too much up until that point, I didn’t really know how else to relate. Thus, when we got the news that we’d be getting a baby girl, I had no choice but to reevaluate my approach.
While I worried about fathering a female, Laurie embraced mothering a female with gusto. Once the nuetral colored nursery was accented in pink, she moved on to blankets and burp cloths and finally her appearance. Like most men, I figured this meant clothing. But oh no, I underestimated The Hair. While Isaac could get his head shaved and be good to go for half a year, Vivi’s mane would occupy great quantities of our daily schedule. There were parts to perfect and bows to misplace. Laurie’s entire reputation as a mother rested solely on her ability to make Vivi’s hair look pretty. “Why don’t you just put a hat on her? We’re already late,” I said.
“You don’t understand,” Laurie said. Then her bottom lip started to quiver.
I might be agitated that Vivi’s hair took so long or that a small stain on her shirt meant we had to turn around, go back home, and get a back-up outfit. But then we’d arrive somewhere and women and men alike would stop us. “Oh. My. God. Look at this pretty little thing.”
“Yep, she’s Daddy’s little princess,” I’d say.
The first few years of Vivi’s life, our relationship was fairly one-sided. She’d cry and I’d bring her whatever it was she wanted. At times, her crying was ear-piercingly, crack-the-windshields loud. But as she grew from an infant to a toddler, her little fits became adorable. Her favorite move was to turn her head from you and say, “Humph.” Sometimes she followed that up by folding her arms. It was precious. Then she started talking and overnight became incredibly, almost painfully precious.
“Daddy loves you.”
“Wah yew too, Dee-ad.”
Bedtime could last anywhere from ten minutes to half an hour and consisted mostly of kisses to her forehead, cheeks, hands, fingers, toes, and feet. Then I’d start again from the top.
I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but sometime around the age of two she became a girly-girl. I think it started when she developed her first crush on Mickey Mouse. From there, she moved on through the catalog of Disney Princes. Ultimately, she idolized every single major and minor female character: Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, Tinker bell, Jasmine, and “Ariel-mermaid!” She knew them all in a matter of a few weeks. The funny thing was that she had seen none of the movies.
That Christmas, her mother, grandmothers, aunts, and great aunts teamed up and gave her the Barbie-doll version of every single, Disney princess. Then, as an added bonus, they gave her a trunk filled a dress-up outfit for every single, Disney princess. Christmas morning, we watched as she opened one of the dolls and shrieked with delight. “Wow! Snow Night!” Then, forty-five seconds later, “Wow! Cindowedda!”
“Didn’t anyone get her something she can wear in public?” I asked.
We brought the dresses home where the thirty-minute-kissy-kissy-bedtime routine became the thirty-minute play-with-dresses-and-dolls routine. We’d tuck her in around 730pm. At nine, we’d still hear her shuffling around in her room. At ten, we’d go check on her to find her passed out in the middle of the floor with the wings of her Tinker bell outfit poking her in the ribs.
I might have found all the pink, girly stuff overwhelming at first. But then her mother started painting her fingernails and toenails, and how could I not find this adorable? She comes pitter-pattering down the hallway and jumps into my arms. “Oh, you’re so pretty,” I tell her.
“Yes, Daddy’s little Pretty-pretty.”
She does a little jig in my arms. “Pity-pity.”
“Are you a little Girly-girly?”
“Are you wearing a pretty dress?”
“What dress is this?”
“Oh, Sleeping Beauty.” I pick up her hand and examine her fingers. “Did Mommy paint your nails?”
“Uh huh. Is pink.”
“Is pink your favorite color?”
“Yessssssss. One’s gone.”
“One of you’re fingernail paints is gone? Oh, no. What happened to your fingernail paint?”
“I ate it.”
It makes my teeth hurt how sweet she is.
If I was nervous about fathering a girl at first, Vivi has completely calmed those fears. I worried I might not know how to relate to her, but honestly, I love all this girly stuff. I love taking her to ballet classes. I love watching her dance around in a Cinderella dress only to change thirty minutes later into Belle. And if I ever get nervous about getting too much into the girly stuff, I can always play with the boy. He’s five now and one of the most advanced speakers I’ve ever seen, but we still have a language that consists of grunts and single-syllable sounds. I grit my teeth, step one foot to the side like a sumo wrestler, and say, “Aaah!” and he knows exactly what I’m talking about.
Happy Birthday, Pretty Girl!