Summertime is a prime season for babies — for anticipating them, having them or just watching them go about their napping, toddling and drooling business.
Maybe we just see more babies this time of year, perspiring in their jogging strollers with their fitness-oriented parents, sitting in laps on lawns with their melting snowballs, or being held aloft in front of frighteningly toothy giraffes at the zoo. Whatever the reason, you can't escape the abundance of babies in the summer, and it's delightful because these mini-humans remind us that life is a journey that is unpredictable, joyful and sometimes just plain gross.
Everyone who's had a baby — or known one well enough to baby-sit for a couple of hours — is shaking his or her head right now, trying to expel that one unpleasant memory. But it will not go away because something happens when a baby creates a memory that rattles you: You are destined to recount this memory until you become old enough to resemble a bald, toothless, wrinkled baby yourself. That's the circle of life, friends.
Before I reveal one of my favorite icky baby memories, I will acknowledge that before I gave birth to a tiny person of my own, I made many rigid mental notes about what I would and would not allow my child to eat, play with, watch or listen to. Sometime within the first two years of parenthood, those guidelines all but disappeared, because I had become a different, more mature person. A person who needed to improvise in order to survive.
The moment I became that person was the morning I took my toddler son to the funeral of a friend's parent. I had a neighbor lined up to watch him but suddenly her baby became ill, so I had to take my baby to one of the top five places parents do not like to take babies. They are, in order: 1) Any sort of somber, religious service marking a life event; 2) Any cultural program with a ticket price of more than $10; 3) Any restaurant with an unlaminated menu; 4) Any place where there are few or no babies; and 5) Anywhere there are judgmental people, which is pretty much everywhere.
So I took my son to the church, and he was blessedly quiet during the program, thanks to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures in my purse and a small plastic bag of Cheese Nips. After the service, we went to my friend's home, where a lovely spread was set out on the polished dining room table. People were mingling, comforting one another in hushed tones. As I walked alongside the buffet with my paper plate, my son pointed to a cube of imported goat cheese on a frilly toothpick. I selected a piece that resembled Velveeta, but he wouldn't have it. He wanted the goat cheese.
"I don't think you'll like that, sweetie," I whispered, trying to hand him the cheese food product.
His face crinkled up in severe disappointment — why would I not let him make his own selection from this platter of world cheeses? His increasingly red visage indicated that an inappropriate memorial luncheon tantrum was brewing, so I quickly threw out all my rules about caving in and gave him the goat cheese.
He beamed me a victory smile at first, but then his face contorted into the most hilarious expression, which I was just savoring when he suddenly opened his mouth to spit out the goat cheese on the expensive Oriental rug.
I quickly put my hand under his mouth to catch it. There was no napkin in sight.
So I did what mothers from time immemorial have done. I popped it into my mouth and swallowed.
And to this day, I don't really care for cheese cubes. But I love my children. And the summertime, when I get to enjoy watching yours.