July 17, 2004

the first in a long line of niece stories

I've got a 4-year-old niece. Even though she's the light of my life and the reason behind many a smile on my face, I will readily admit that the girl is a punk. She's quite cheeky and very spoiled. But she's also got almond-shaped green eyes, long eyelashes, strawberry blonde hair and an outrageous set of dimples. That little girl can infuriate me one moment and then completely melt me the next.

She sits on my lap facing me and tries to make sense of the curls sprouting from my scalp. She likes to pull on the corkscrew ones and say, "Boing!" when they spring back into shape. This cracks her up. Sometimes she messes around with my hair so much that she pulls the curl right out. This disappoints her and she asks me to make it curly again as if I can just wiggle my nose or snap my fingers to make it happen. She doesn't understand that I'd have to wash it, apply product, let it dry a bit, add more product, let it dry some more and then crunch some more product into it to get the spiraling effect. Passage of time and procedures make no sense to her.

The girl has quite a reputation for saying some howlingly funny things. We could tell from the smile that snuck across her infant face any time she peed in her diaper that she was going to be a character. Months later when she was of Zweiback-eating age, she was being videotaped by my oldest sister (the mother) as she munched on a cookie. Proud of her snack, she mashed it into a clenched fist and held it up to the camera. Thanks to slippery fingers and sheer physics, one finger popped out. Guess which one? There is actual footage of my niece flipping off my sister at a very early age. It's priceless.

The niece tends to pick up a phrase or a word and then, like most children, will run it into the ground. My younger sister (not the mother) often forgets about this and will inadvertently introduce slang or other inappropriate sayings into this child's vocabulary. I believe the younger sister playfully patted the niece's diapered bum a few years ago and said, "Look at this big booty."

It was on. The niece used it incessantly after that. She would even hunch over and wiggle her backside while singing, "Shake your booty! Shake your booty! Shake your booty!" It seemed harmless enough at first but she almost tripped a waitress in a restaurant when she sprang from her seat and began her floor show. Our fellow diners looked on with reactions ranging from amusement to concern to horror. Now that I think about it, that waitress got served. Ha ha ha.

On another occasion, the younger sister and my father were having a conversation in the dining room. The niece wanted attention so she began talking over them at full volume. The younger sister said to the niece, "We're going to get you a muzzle!" The niece then turned to my father and said, "Pop Pop, you need a muzzle!" There was laughter and prodding to go into the kitchen to tell Granny what Pop Pop needed. So the niece set forth to deliver this news to my mother. Everyone waited to hear the bit about the muzzle. The niece blurted out, "Pop Pop needs booty!" Oh dear. I don't even think my mother understood the context of it. She just thought my niece was being scatological once again. I laughed hysterically when I first heard the story and then I quickly sobered up and said, "Hey, how does Dad know what that means?" That was a bit disturbing. After some thought, we decided that he secretly watches MTV and other youth-oriented programming but quickly changes the channel when someone enters the room.

The niece is now hung up on poop -- as a noun, verb, adjective, you name it. Recently she went a bit retro and trotted out her old act. She was watching one of her videos and was perplexed at the mention of DNA. She asked her mother about its meaning. My sister punted the question to the younger sister who is in the medical field. The younger sister fielded it and began a kid-friendly explanation of DNA. She told the niece that it was the stuff inside of her that made her different from everyone else. It made her HER and all that jazz. The niece absorbed this information and said, "Oh, it's what makes your booty smell?"

Can I just say that it's really hard to discourage poopie talk when the lecture is delivered through stifled laughter, smirking and a shit-eating grin (pun intended)?!?! Fortunately I didn't have to handle that little episode. When it's my turn to be the disciplinarian, I try to do the right thing with my niece but it's hard. Is it wrong that I'm a little bit proud of her burgeoning inappropriate sense of humor?