Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hanging With Cooper

Cooper was drawing so I grabbed my sketchbook and did this really fast with off-brand crayons -- six-year olds move around a lot so they're hard to draw.

"You're drawing! Stop looking up -- you're supposed to look at the paper!"

One of the reasons I've been riding the bummer train lately is that I haven't been getting enough socializing. I'm pretty anti-social but I've come to realize that company is something people just plain need and like it or not I'm an ape just the same as everyone else.

In particular I've been missing the kids in my life so it was really good to hear that the missus's grandson Cooper was spending the night with us. He and I have an interesting history. When he was an infant and toddler I really had no idea what to make of him -- I'd been dealing with girls for so long I'd forgotten how different boys are. He was like a little robot constructed for the express purpose of setting everything he could reach onto the floor -- none of the need for interaction that seemed to rule the girls.

Then when he was a bit older he was difficult to handle. I was always seeing him with the other kids around and he just didn't play well with them -- they had entirely different agendas and as a result the girls were pretty impatient with him and made it clear that they regarded him as a pain in the ass. Nobody shines under those conditions.

Two things happened. One was really kind of hard on me -- Cooper said a few things and did a few things that put me in the position of having to really play the authority card. No manhandling, no beatings -- I didn't tase him. But I did give him some stern talkings-to, the kind I knew would have freaked me out when I was his age.

But it really had to be done. I wasn't hurtful or blameful and I made a point of making sure that I didn't put him down or say that he was a bad person and I also made sure he knew that I thought it was a good idea for him to talk to his parents about what I said to him. But let me tell you, I've never been so authoritarian in my life. I did not shy away from what I had to say. I was pretty harsh. It's funny -- having to deal with a boy put me in the position of having to act like a man.

The result was that he bonded with me -- he started calling me 'grampa'. He really liked me. And of course that made me really like him. I always loved him but you know the difference between loving someone and honestly wanting to spend time with them.

And I showed him Star Wars. I'm still trying to figure out whether or not that was a good thing but he's totally fixated on it. And his dad digs it too -- it's wound up giving them a lot of activites they do together. But still. I passed the nerd meme on to the next generation and it makes me feel kinda dirty. Star Wars has become one of the poles their household revolves around.

Anyway, he spent the night last night. The kid is hilarious. It was all I could do not to take notes the whole time we were hanging out. He's also extremely conscious of his own dignity -- one of those people for whom being laughed at is worse than being hit. I'm a bit of a teaser so I have to watch myself...

So. A few Cooper nuggets.

He's hanging out while my music buddy and I play Pictures of Matchstick Men, watching us intently. When the song is over he puts his hand on my arm and very seriously asks me, "Why are you still a teenager?"

(I told him my mother always said I was like Merlin, I was born a little old man and had been growing younger ever since. It ain't far from the truth, I'm here to say...)

In the car he proved my contention that children are all pathological liars with heads just crammed full of powerful acid -- "Everybody knows who I am. I was in the paper with Mitch and there was all bloody and a fight so now I'm famous."

There was a little girl about his age at one of the yard sales we went to and when she laid eyes on him you could see cartoon birds and flowers squirt out of her ears and fly around her head. She was on him like white on rice. Driving home there was the following conversation:

The Missus: So do little girls like you?
Cooper, in the most been-there-done-that-and-all-life-is-vanity kinda voice I've heard up until this moment: Yeah, they do.
The Missus: And do they say, 'Oh, Cooper!'?
Cooper, still jaded: No. They say 'What's your name?'.
The Missus: And do you like girls?
Cooper, incredibly in a voice even more world-weary and utterly hopeless: I love 'em.

Of course there was the inevitable 'Jesus Christ, this is so wrong I can't believe this is happening' moment that you get when dealing with small primates who still haven't figured out the local taboos. Let me make my policy clear -- I try and be honest, but I ain't gonna grapple with that stuff unless the parents expressly ask me to. Life is too fucking short.

We were watching The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad (I know -- more geek fodder) when we fell into a conversation that had me thinking I might just dive out the window into the blackberry bushes rather than let it continue. For extra points find the phrase I could not believe came out of my mouth.

Cooper: Can I lay down on you?
Oaf, who is accustomed to children treating him as furniture: Sure.
Child squinches around and makes himself comfortable.
Cooper: Hey! Are those balls back there?
Oaf, appalled and uncertain: Yeah.
Cooper: EEEEEEEEEEEW! (cackles) Do you have four balls?
Turns around, begins to prod with an extended forefinger.
Cooper: One, two, three--
Oaf: Cut it out! You don't get to count my balls. Anyway, there's only two of 'em.
Cooper: How come?
Oaf: How many legs do you have?
Cooper: Two.
Oaf: How many eyes?
Cooper: Two.
Oaf: How many ears do you have?
Cooper: Two.
Oaf: Well, it's the same deal.
Cooper: Why are there balls? They hurt a lot.
As the terrified Oaf tries to figure a way out of this one there is, horribly, another prod.
Cooper: Only one weenus!
Oaf: Cut it out!
Cooper: How come only one?
Oaf: How many noses do you have?
Cooper: One.
Oaf: How many mouths do you have?
Cooper, with a gleam in his eye that shows he has caught on: I have five mouths!

Man, I love that kid. But if he ever finds out how funny I think he is he's gonna kill me.

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