She’s just a baby.
Grace is the youngest, therefore, she gets that name. The Baby. I’m 41, she’s 8. When I’m 91, and she’s 58, she’ll still be The Baby.
Grace plays like John Kerry on this issue. Daddy carries her on his back, baby monkey style. But Grace also wants to do things on her own, figuring anything she can reach with help from a kitchen chair is fair game. She’s a second-grader who thinks like a high schooler sometimes. Good and bad.
Science gives me no concrete solution.
Theory 1: Baby status ends on the first day of kindergarten
False. She breezed through the celebrated 100th day of kindergarten straight through to graduation. First grade is a memory. She’s better than halfway through second grade. No, she’s not in driver’s ed yet, but she’s asked for cute boots for her birthday and I swear she had on mascara the other day.
She’s still on the Kissasaurus’ visit list. Still my baby.
Theory 2: A lost tooth begets big-girl status, officially
False. Her first wiggly artifact popped out during lunch at school. Many more have since followed, replaced by big-girl chompers that more readily resemble sharks’ teeth. She even uses toothpaste that doesn’t taste like cotton candy and her toothbrush isn’t shaped like Scooby Doo.
I bet she’d still let me brush them. Still my baby.
Theory 3: If a child requests crustless sandwiches and orders chicken nuggets in a Mexican restaurant, color her baby
False. It might hold water in the “I just want chicken nuggets!” argument (oh, and mac and cheese), but this argument falls apart at the mechanically-separated seams. Elise requested crust-off status on her sandwiches up until age 13. And this weekend, at age 15, she just left them on the plate.
So, false, thanks to Elise’s picky eating habits. Still my baby. Both of them.
Theory 4: A child who eats pizza with toppings is sophisticated enough to shun the baby label
False. She shuns all things Little Ceasar’s (although kids today have no idea how awesome the big rectangular pies they used to serve in the paper wrappers … can I get a witness?), and she’ll surgically remove any toppings (except for olives, but olives are baby food).
Silver lining: I get her discarded toppings. Still my baby. And SUPREME supreme pizza.
Theory 5: When she nets her first soccer goal, her baby status is traded
False. The score-happy monkey had many hat tricks under her belt the day she pulled my pants down between two busy soccer fields. After one particularly effective scoring game, she declared as she climbed into the car, “daddy, sometimes I’m pretty, and sometimes I’m dirty.”
By the looks of her uniform and the scowl on the other coach’s face, I’d say it was a dirty day.
But it sure was pretty.
In conclusion …
This is tough: She’s little enough to ride on my shoulders, and play baby dolls. She’s often painted up with temporary tats, susceptible to the cookie bribery (who am I kidding? So am I), and will tool around on pbskids.org while her sisters look at Pinterest and Star Dolls.
She’s snuggleable, but less tolerant of my scratchy chin. She made me a folder last season to take to Carolina Panthers games I cover for the Associated Press, with the left pocket labled “win” and the right “lose” – with happy and sad faces indicating which is which. I use it, after almost every game.
When she draws me, I’m still a stick figure with messy hair and a crooked smile, not the anatomically and visually accurate rendition her 12-year-old sister does. (Let me run on the treadmill another month before you draw me again, Marie!)
I asked Grace about her “dirty” game recently. She didn’t complain about the refs or the goals we gave up late in the game to settle for a tie, wiping out Grace’s hat trick. Babies are supposed to be all “mine mine mine,” right?
Instead, she gave praise for the girl’s effort.
“Did you see her stretching and running and jumping on the ball when it came close?” she reminded me. “She made some really good saves, daddy!”
That’s not so babyish. Kind of … big-kid like.
Me:That’s my big girl.
Grace:No, Daddy. I’m your baby.
I won’t argue. But only for the next 60 years or so … tops.