Every night at bedtime I pick out four or five books to read to
Jackson before he falls asleep. He has approximately 40,000 books so
it’s easy to keep it fresh for the people. I normally choose something old, like a
Golden Book; something TV-based, like a Scooby Doo mystery; a Calvin and Hobbes anthology; and
something nonfiction/educational. So the other night we climb up into
his bed and I show him what we’ve got to work with: The Taxi That
Hurried; a short and colorful story based on the movie Surf’s Up
(read by me in the voice of The Dude); Revenge of the Baby-Sat; and
Children Just Like Me, a book put out by UNICEF about ten years ago to
show privileged First World kids that families who live in mud-brick
jungle houses fortified with cow dung, or in tents in the desert, or in post-Soviet
apartment blocks, all have the same dream: to be warm, dry, and loved,
and to ride their pet dinosaur through a black hole.
So we’re in his bed and I
say to Jackson, “What do you want to read first?” and he points to the girl on the far right of the top row on the cover of Children Just Like Me and says, with an uncanny
amount of corny, hushed Drake-and-Josh-meet-Lindsay-Lohan awe, “SHE’S
My six-year-old son thinks a girl is totally hot. There might be an extra T in her hotness, I can’t be sure, and neither can he, he can’t spell. She’s neither “cute,” nor “pretty,” nor “refreshingly winsome” — no, the teen-speak he’s appropriated now requires him to express admiration for a member of the opposite sex using the equivalent of “Hubba hubba!” and asking me to show him how to do that Bugs Bunny thing with two fingers in his mouth (you know, a wolf whistle).
Here are a couple of things that I’m sure of. One is that kids imitate sexuality before they actually understand it. The other is that if you’re blessed with a kid who has no latency period, who has been in love with girls since he first laid eyes on one his own size, there’s a fair amount of wincing involved as you watch him build his vocabulary d’amour.
And verbals are just the half of it, you should have seen him strut along the sidewalks of New York City, plugged into an iPod Shuffle and bobbing his head along to ZZ Top. “That boy’s got his pimp roll down,” said Jack with not a little admiration as we walked along behind, noting Jackson’s somewhat amateur but nonetheless highly committed swagger. Of course, despite all the glimpses of grown-up I catch in him every day, he still waits for us at the corner, and when his dad says, “Buddy, I need your paw,” he reaches up to hold hands when we cross the street. It’s sweet, of course, but he knows we’ll kill him — and then we’ll ground him until his hair turns white — if he doesn’t.
Anyway, that girl in the book who he thinks is hot? She’s French and she lives in a castle and her family makes wine, so no, the book isn’t all Third World lifestyles and witchetty grubs for dinner. What’s funny to me is that immediately after reading all about Little Miss “My Favorite Food is Duck” we make an effortless switch over to that delightful little egomanic, Calvin, and his nemesis, Susie Derkins.
Fortunately for the both of us, Susie’s hotness isn’t in question, nor her unambiguous morals, thus allowing us to reassert the childish innocence of bedtime for a little bit longer.