To My Smiling Annie

by Mr. Sheehy

Smiles – that’s what I called you when you were little, and though I have fallen off by now (my favorite nicknames for you come from your mom – Peanut, Pumpkin), your smiling has not. I suppose if we were to engage some sort of official study we’d find that all kids under a year old smile all the time, but I really wonder if anyone could smile as easily as you. You make me feel like I’m the champion dad simply for looking at you. You’re sitting on the floor in the kitchen, I walk by and make eye contact, and you beam your toothless, open-mouthed gasp of joy, suck in some air to make a light “hhheee” noise, crinkle your nose, and flap your arms up and down – and that before I make a move to come closer to you. You’ll give a similar reaction to Ellen, Gramma, Grampa, Uncle Aaron, or Uncle Brian, but of course your reaction for Mommy is a level above all this.

Today, for example, I played a game with you in the kitchen called “Make you smile” – it’s my favorite game and I play it as often as possible. For this version, I was holding you and talking to Mommy as she ate lunch. I’d back away to the far side of the kitchen and you’d be fairly noncommittal in mood, but then I’d say, “Make you smile” and begin walking towards Mommy. You’d instantly beam and grow in squirmy joy until, a foot or so from your target parent, you’d throw yourself at her with your arms up by your face. Then we’d back up to the far side of the kitchen while you reacquired a mid-range mood; then we’d attack again, always with the same joyous reaction.

Easy to please and difficult to fluster has been your biggest theme to this point, which of course means that we are the world’s most spoiled family. If I want to do more than get a quick grin from you, I can wear my baseball cap – for some reason, a cap fascinates you as much as my winter hat used to fascinate your sister when she was of a similar age. Is it the discovery that despite the odd look I’m still the same guy? Or is the hat itself cool looking? It is a Red Sox hat . . .

The difficult to fluster side enters more when dealing with your big sister, who has to be the most loving sister you could ask for. But whatever level her love is, she is still only 2, and mistakes happen. Say Ellen has sought to bring you into the action and approaches you too vigorously, knocking you over. This is always an amusing sight, because it’s a slow-motion moment. She’ll do something, say give you a kiss, but she’ll push too hard in her effort to get near you. While she’s in close, you begin to tip, but it’s slow, and for a moment, if I see it, I wonder if you’ll catch yourself – you often surprise me with how far back you can go – but then as Ellen returns to her spot, you lean a bit too far and over you go, usually with a slant to the right or left, and clunk – you’re down. I never catch you – sorry, but it’s true, somehow the slow-motion process tricks me every time – and instead scoop you back to a sitting position, ready for you to explode into tears. But instead of an explosion you make a scrunched up about-to-cry face, maybe pout out a few minor tears, and then after a hug you’re back to normal. Like I said, I’m spoiled over how easy-going you are. The only time this quick-fix process fails is when you’re hungry or tired, and even then it’s amazing how a glance at Mommy cures any ill.

But that’s okay – easy going is a personality trait that will benefit you in the future. You do have to live in a house with Ellen and me, and these easy-to-please traits will become useful in your interactions with two passionately dramatic relatives who will always be close-by.