Capricious Cuteness

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So my son’s cuteness factor is at a constant 12 out of 10. Dante is blue eyed, with monkey-blonde hair and a genuine, chirpy contentedness that he most certainly did not get from my side of the family. He is precious on the daily, and even the nightly (save for episodes of teething).

He is cute when he cries, cute when he sleeps, and so freaking cute when he laughs hysterically at whatever weird mom-thing I’m doing — sneezing, dressing him, wiping his butt, dropping something, picking up something he dropped — it’s all game for the giggles. Still, there are several quirks that he has quickly adopted and then abandoned, despite my squealing reinforcement.

At around six or seven months Dante started spitting, or “razzing.” Just sticking out his tongue and shamelessly announcing his new ability to expel air and saliva through his mouth. This happened for one whole day and has yet to be seen again. Perhaps this is for the best because, despite third-party insistence that I shouldn’t encourage spitting, I was really into it.

When I got Dante his “Johnny Jumpup” doorway bouncer, he loved it immediately. It provided about four months of distraction and time management; I hung it in the kitchen and he would spin for a good half-an-hour while I cooked, cleaned, or just sat in front of him reading a book or posting on Instagram. He liked to bounce, which is appropriate.

As he got older, he also liked to spin all Billy Elliot-like with suspiciously feminine grace and timing. Whatever, kid’s got long legs. Then, for a stretch of two or three days, he started doing a “cupid” spin: he would kick up his knees and hold onto them, so that he spun faster, a little ball with his feet in the air. This was ridiculously adorable and it was a shame that I could never capture it on camera. He has since outgrown this happy and timesaving activity since he has outgrown the jumper itself.

The “froggy” dance: one day, around the time he decided to be a flying cupid doll, he found it fun to kick up his knees when I picked him up. Like, really kick them up, so that they were by my ribs, and he was in a little ball as I carried him. He would then lean backward and put his hands on my chest, and grin. He looked like a froggy, so I would walk around with him, bouncing him and chanting “froggy, froggy, froggy!” He outgrew this within a week, and now gives me a stoic, blank stare whenever I try to initiate the game.

A Johnny Jump-Up (Photo provided by Vitginia Petrucci)
A Johnny Jump-Up
(Photo provided by Vitginia Petrucci)

The puppy-like head tilt initially caused me some concern. I had him checked for an ear infection and the doctor reassured me that he did not have one, nor did he have some ugly neurological-based tic disorder. He began doing it when he first started teething around seven or eight months and I attribute it to this.

It was alternately precious and eerie: he would stop whatever he was doing, stare at an empty space on a characterless wall and cock his head, as though he were considering a talkative ghost.

Recently, I’ve been absorbed by Dante’s one-year-old antics: walking like a midday drunk, initiating games of baby tag and tilting his head to the side (much more intentionally than his younger self did) while cooing at me with a massive grin. That last one gets me every time, and he knows that when he does it, I will come in for the kill and smother him with kisses.

His new thing, which almost sent me into a doctor-bound panic (as is my wont) when he started doing it unprovoked, is shaking his head “no”. Sometimes, he squints his eyes and lolls his tongue, which just looks plain weird. He does it for no reason other than to practice the movement. His dad taught him this as a game and he now likes to conveniently employ the action when I am feeding him large mouthfuls of oatmeal.

I settled down and realized that there was nothing wrong with him; that he would imitate anyone who tried to initiate the behavior. It was all fun and games until he ran up to me while shaking his head, lost his balance, and bonked his head on the doorway.

He was inconsolable, and I was heartbroken that his little game had so woefully backfired. I realized that encouraging behaviors for our own bemusement is perhaps not the greatest idea in parenting history, even if it is to teach him a meaningful communication. He already understands the word “no” quite well, of course; he is presently smirking at me as I try to persuade him not to dig through the trash.

If mannerisms transmitted from parent to child intentionally carry the potential for baby-scale disasters such as head-ons with doorways, then what other learned behaviors is my son picking up? Surely he doesn’t pay me any mind as I verbally accost the television whenever Dance Moms gives me angst? Oh god.