Pucker up, baby girl, and kiss me while you can

By JASON RECKER

When it comes to kissing, she holds nothing back.

It’s basically all tongue, a tide of saliva and a stream of spit clinging to the bottom of her chin. It’s sloppy and unpredictable, like being ambushed by a drooling dog. The recipient of her affection really should wear a bib. Maybe bring a beach towel for the cleanup.

Now before you get all presumptive, I’m talking about a 14-month-old. (Going all “Fifty Shades of Grey” in a family newspaper will get a guy fired.) It’s my daughter, and, for the time being, she can smooch with me as much as she likes. Our window is closing, and I’m going to miss the kisses filled with spit, snot and bits of half-chewed peas.

My wife and I are done having children. She could go for four. I preferred two. We settled on three. Compromise, the foundation of marriage. Low on patience and high on blood pressure, it’s not safe for me to father more offspring. But as Emilie, the youngest of our trio of drama princesses, advances toward toddlerhood, I am reminded of how much I’m going to miss this baby thing.

I mean, when she’s 3, her sisters and I won’t gather around the tub to watch her pee in the bath water. These days, we press our knees against the fiberglass, holding our laughter so as not to disturb Emilie’s focus. She stands and proudly sprays her waste into water, kind of like a peacock displaying its feathers. We high-five each other. A few months from now, the encouragement of wayward urination will just make us creepy. For these fleeting moments, it’s innocent, harmless. I want to embrace innocent. I like harmless.

Boogers are harmless. When prompted to point to her nose, Emilie sometimes inserts her finger into a nostril and, unsatisfied with a simple poke, she twists. When a 1-year-old gets all up into some olfactory exploration, it’s cute. Go ahead, ask her where her nose is. When she digs knuckle-deep, try not to laugh.

Likewise, snot is, for the time being, acceptable. Her nose runs, and I just let the wave roll until it crests her upper lip. Then, she can lick it. Presto, problem solved. In grade school, that’ll make you the gross kid. In the crib, well, that’s both handy and frugal.

When you’re 1, it’s OK to pluck a used washcloth off the bathroom floor and suck out some water. Survival of the fittest.

I wish they made footed pajamas for adults. I wish I could slobber enough to soak the top half of my shirt and not care. I wish I could be mesmerized by flipping a light switch.

Really, who wouldn’t want to celebrate their first birthday again? I’ll take a little re-enactment with a slice of cake the size of a basketball all to myself. Emilie picked up her first piece of cake and tried to demolish the mound in one bite. She threw crumbs on the floor and washed her hair with icing. She ate and ate and ate until somebody urged me to remove the prize. Then, she just sat there and stared, blinking every now and then but otherwise dazed. Her first food coma. When you’re 1, you’re applauded for gluttony and sloth. And you get to live it up while wearing only a diaper.

You don't have to put your nose in the corner when you misbehave. You’re expected to defecate with such volume and force that you wreck an outfit a day. The pacifier is your friend. No judging. No shame. No worries.

A while back, I overheard a father say something like this: During the first year or so of a child’s life, there’s really nothing all that rewarding about being a parent. He intimated that newborns just kind of sit there, lie there, spit, sleep, poop, eat, do nothing. I suppose he wanted exploration, conversation, T-ball practice, dance recitals and learning to read. I understand the need for interaction. But don’t wish away the baby days.

People often say, basically no matter the age of the child, “Oh, this is such a good age.” Sometimes, like at church when my 4-year-old sabotages the serenity by hissing about how she’s ready for lunch, I want to slap those people. But truth is, they’re all good ages. And there’s something about holding that tiny baby in your arms and realizing it’s all on you. Scary as hell. Plenty can go wrong. Then you lean in for a kiss and she unleashes an open-mouth slobberwhopper. Soon enough, she’ll be kissing other boys. Soon enough, well, it’ll just be wrong for a daughter to lay a big, fat one on her dad. For now, though, it’s perfect.

So bring it on. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts. No cleanup necessary.

Jason Recker is the enterprise editor at The Herald. He licks snot off his top lip, too. His email is jrecker@dcherald.com.




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