For whatever reason, today amichevole intimidated me into writing a ficlet that I ended up liking a lot, oddly enough. And therefore I am going to post it here, because I can, and because I know there are still, like, three of you who like it when I write kidfic.
Here it goes: Emily and her daughter having a meaningful conversation about babies, explosions, and hitting other people.
Title from Loudon Wainwright, the lyrics of which are so obviously slapped together out of desperation, but you gotta give him credit since nothing rhymes with daughter except manslaughter. The formatting is all fucked up because, well, let's just blame Livejournal for it since it's responsible for most of the problems in the world.
everything she takes (she takes apart)
"It's Aunt JJ's baby shower today," Beezus's mom tells her with a big smile. "Isn't that exciting?"
"Not really," Beezus says. She can think of a billion other things that are more exciting, like finding a quarter on the sidewalk or going to McDonald's or writing her name in wet cement.
(Daddy did not find that last one to be very exciting, although he did say he was proud of her for not writing her Rs backwards anymore. It was even more exciting when the Cement Guy came back to redo the cement and he told her that it was a good thing she didn't stick her finger in her nose after she wrote in the cement, or it would've been stuck in there forever.)
The problem with grownups is that they often use the word "exciting" when they really mean "boring." Babies are boring, and showers are boring, especially compared to baths. A baby shower would be the boringest of boring.
"Will there be a cake?" Beezus asks.
"Well, we're making a diaper cake right now," says her mother, who is rolling up a bunch of tiny diapers.
Diaper cake sounds like the worst flavor of cake. "YUCK. Why would anyone want a cake that tastes like diapers?"
Mommy laughs and points to her computer screen. "It's not a real cake. It's supposed to look like a cake, but it's not the kind of cake you can eat. Babies go through diapers fast, and your aunt JJ is having twins, so she'll need a lot of them."
"If you put candles on a diaper cake, it will catch on fire," Beezus says thoughtfully.
"It probably will."
"There might be an explosion." Beezus can imagine the diaper cake bursting into flames and a lot of shouting and Henry crying and herself holding Jack's hand and being very brave and Jack's dad telling everyone in a calm voice not to panic because he has everything under control. There might even be firefighters, like the ones who came when Beezus got her head stuck in a fence.
Now that would be exciting.
Mommy chucks Beezus under the chin and says, "Sorry to disappoint you, Beez, but I don't think there will be any explosions because we won't be putting candles on the diaper cake. We might put candles on the cake cake though."
"Do I get to blow them out?" Beezus asks, feeling excited at last. She likes blowing out candles, because of the wishes. But she can only wish on candles on cake, not church candles. When you blow out a church candle, you kill a prayer. Beezus killed a bunch of prayers once when she was too young to know what she was doing, and she worries about that sometimes. All those missing prayers being in the sky somewhere, not getting into Jesus' inbox.
"I think Aunt JJ gets to blow them out," her mother says, going back to rolling the diapers. She frowns as she realizes that her cake doesn't look like the one on the computer. "But she might let you if you ask nicely."
"Henry will probably want to do it," Beezus says. "Henry spits when he blows out candles. He got spit on my birthday cake and he wasn't even supposed to be blowing out my candles because it was my birthday and we had to light them again."
"I'm starting to consider nixing the whole candles idea."
Beezus gets up onto her knees so she can watch her mom work on the diaper cake. She counts all the diapers so far --- twenty six --- and there are about a thousand more to go, which is more than she can count. She can only get up to a hundred.
"Are the babies going to poop in all these diapers?" she asks.
"Probably," her mom answers. "Babies tend to poop a lot."
"I don't like babies," Beezus declares.
Her mother stops folding and looks at her. Her lips are straight but her eyes crinkle up, which means she is trying not to laugh at Beezus. Beezus does not appreciate being laughed at, so she is glad her mother is making an effort to take her seriously.
"Why don't you like babies?" asks Beezus's mom. "Because they poop so much?"
"Yes," Beezus says, "and also because you can't hit them."
The crinkles disappear and the lips turn into a frown. "Well, yes, you can't hit babies, but you shouldn't be hitting people anyway."
"But sometimes you need to hit people. If someone tried to kidnap me, I could hit them, right?"
"I suppose ---"
"If someone tried to murder me, I could hit them, right? Right?"
Mommy sighs. "Yes, Beezus, if someone tried to murder or kidnap or attack you in any way, you can hit them."
"And if they steal my toys and then break them, I can hit them."
"No, you can't. You know you can't. You should talk to them first and if that doesn't work, you can ask Ms. Carol or another grownup to intervene."
"I did," Beezus points out. "Last time, when Baby Michael came to visit, he grabbed my Lego lightsabre and smashed it."
"Yes, and you hit him."
"I told you that he was breaking my stuff and you said it's not his fault, he's just a baby and doesn't understand, but he kept doing it and so I had to hit him. And you got really mad at me and said I can't hit babies. So now I don't like babies, because you can't hit them when they do something wrong and it's not fair."
"It's not fair to hit a baby because they don't know any better."
"Henry hit me all the time when I was a baby, and I didn't know any better. But now I'm big enough to hit him back."
Beezus's mom stares at her and puffs out a long breath. "Okay. I'm not done with this discussion on whether or not hitting is appropriate, but JJ will be here in an hour and I need to finish this diaper cake, so let's put our conversation on hold, okay?"
Beezus watches as her mom piles some more diapers onto the cake which does not look like a cake but like laundry. She doesn't want her mom to feel bad though, especially when Henry's little brothers will be pooping all over her mother's hard work in a couple of weeks, which is bad enough.
She wonders if her mother will hold the babies in her lap and cuddle them and smile like they're the best things in the world. That's what Mommy did with Baby Michael and Beezus did not like that. So she tried to push Baby Michael off her mom's lap and told him to get his own mom instead. "THIS MY MOMMY," she yelled in his face, and she was scolded for it, which wasn't fair either because she was only two and that is only a little more than a baby.
"Will you have another baby?" she asks her mother, suddenly worried. Baby Michael was just a visitor and he went away eventually, but if her mom has another baby, like Henry's mom, Beezus will never be able to get rid of it.
And she won't be able to hit it either, when it steals and breaks her stuff, which it will.
Mommy looks startled for a second and then says, "Probably not. I'm too old to have another baby. It took a long time for your daddy and me to have you."
"So you absolutely, positively won't have another baby?"
"I won't say absolutely, positively, but I'm fairly certain that I will not have another baby."
"Good," Beezus says, a little bit more relaxed. "Because I will hit it. You can only have one baby and that is me."
She climbs into her mother's lap and tries to squeeze herself as small as possible, but it's harder now. She is growing like a weed, her daddy says. Good thing I don't have hayfever, he also says.
Her mom puts down the diaper she is holding and folds her arms around Beezus. She re-adjusts Beezus's tiara so that she can kiss Beezus's hair but she doesn't say anything. Beezus puts her thumb into her mouth and closes her eyes and she can feel her mother's cheek resting against her head and she thinks she can remember being a little baby and together they sit like this for a very long time.