Thursday, August 25, 2011

Three feet of perspective

A couple of quick Little Guy Anecdotes I wanted to share, in reverse chronological order:

When my family left our house on Sunday morning this past weekend, the good-byes of course included a lot of the requisite assurances that we’d all see each other soon and keep in touch in the meantime and so on, which led my wife to point out that we really should have taken advantage earlier in the weekend of my sister’s presence, since she is so completely a digital native and could have helped us finally hook up our computer to Skype. This proceeded to delay the departure for a scant number of minutes as they hooked up Skype in record time.

It seemed reasonable to test out the Skype connection but at that point it wasn’t possible to call my dad with it, since they had just left and would be on the road for six or eight more hours, so we called my Little Bro. By which I mean I called him on his cell phone with my cell phone and told him to get online so we could try out the Skyping. It worked! And at the outset we had my entire four-person family crowded into the webcam’s field of view, while my brother and his wife were also on screen. A lot of that early part of the conversation was given over to explaining to the little guy how he could see himself in the smaller window on the computer screen but also (more importantly) see his uncle and aunt in the bigger window. And at one point my brother observed to his nephew “You know, when your dad and I were kids, you couldn’t see people when you called them. Except in science fiction movies.”

Or retro-futurist cartoons
Which I thought was a trenchant enough observation, but of course it had absolutely no impact on the little guy whatsoever. Between encountering and learning about brand new ideas every day and still having a shaky-at-best grasp on subtle time-space continuum components like “history” and “change” I don’t think the little guy is quite ready to appreciate notions of how things used to be like THAT but now they’re like THIS. In fact he pretty quickly got bored of the video-call and wandered off, not long after he had tried to show a new toy to his uncle and aunt by holding it up one millimeter away from the webcam lens.

I don’t mean to say that the little guy isn’t able to discern subtle distinctions at all, however. (Cue segue to anecdote #2) On Saturday night we had barbecued chicken, which was prepared in about the simplest manner possible that could still technically be classified as “cooking”: I dumped raw chicken breasts in a bowl and dumped most of a bottle of store-bought barbecue sauce on them, swirled it around to cover them all more or less evenly, threw them on the grill, flipped them a few times, and served. I also put the barbecue sauce bottle on the dinner table, for anyone who wanted to augment the flavors that had been mostly charred and cooked off. My wife asked the little guy if he wanted some ketchup for his, and I said “Or you could have barbecue sauce. Which is just like ketchup, only BETTER.” That is in fact my true personal opinion on the subject. I am the guy who will specifically get a packet or two of barbecue sauce at McDonald’s whether I’m getting Chicken McNuggets or a Big Mac, because I prefer dipping my fries in the barbecue sauce over ketchup. And I figured there was no harm in sharing this preference with my son, who has a pretty sophisticated palate if I do say so myself. E.g., he eats a lot of the home cooking in which my wife and I tend to lay the garlic on pretty thick. I expected barbecue sauce to be a bit of a revelation for him.

And it was, but not the pleasant kind. He tried it but it pretty thoroughly grossed him out. But endearingly enough, what bothered him more than the flavor which struck his tongue as unpleasant was the idea that he had been led astray by his father’s flagrant falsehoods. “It does NOT taste like ketchup!” he yelled at me, close to tears, after he had finished spitting out a bite of barbecue-sauced food. And then he added the kicker: “Never EVER do that again!” He’s been using that particular corrective here and there lately but it was pretty adorable under the circumstances. Never oversimplify the comparative qualities of one condiment with another again? Never make him try something he’s never eaten before again? I honestly don’t know, but I’ll do my best to stay out of that minefield for a while.

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