Eliot came out of the bathroom and announced that she doesn't eat toilet paper. "It's for babies" she reassured me. I don't know if she'd just tried the toilet paper and, upon finding it's not all that good to eat, wanted me to know it's something she's not going to do anymore. Or if she simply thought it would be good for me to know. I appreciate it. The list of parental worries grows every day, from will my family be injured by an election-empowered emotional idget, to if my son will wander into the path of danger pursuing a Pokemon. I mean that phone is brand new.

JUST KIDDING! The phone isn't new at all. But I joke because having a family is terrifying. I thought I had worries when I was twenty. Which begs the question: Why? Why do we breed? Why do we stretch our rather immalleable heart muscle across the lives of children scattered everywhere? But then Eliot emerges from a blanket fort and tells me she loves me. And she means it. And I'm reassured by the multiplying. 

 I only have to worry about you for the rest of my life.

I only have to worry about you for the rest of my life.

This is where Eliot is now: lots of announcements. She knows things and she wants us to know the things she knows. Not so much in an arrogant, know-it-all way, but in a genuine The-More-You-Know public service way. For example, she points out that I'm a boy and she's a girl...a lot. Also, on the regular she introduces me to her mom. Turns out she's in the same house. 

Eliot's declarations come at a steady pace. Like I'd say between three and thirty per minute, and right now they're all pretty adorable. I'll say the same for the boys--in that their statements are sweet testaments to clarity and youth--except when they start talking about Pokemon and then they're the worst Tinder date ever, running sentences into a stifling word smog of Japanese monster jargon. That said, the observational comments are ruling the house. The biggest news being that Eliot's birthday is in two weeks and she can feel it. Nay, she can taste it. It's the cake she's excited about. She loves cake, especially cupcakes, and sings about them and praises them and when she gets one takes two bites of frosting before leaving it partially naked and left to dry. Still, she's been singing happy birthday to herself and pressing others to join in. I would feel pressure to exceed her expectations, but this is a kid who lives for the smiley face on the back of a warehouse receipt. And if there's anything that I could impress upon new parents, it's to enjoy the kids while they're cheap. Instead of a clown or a magician, I may just have the guy from Costco come over.

My favorite Eliot proclamation is her love for the family. I mean she really adores us. She hugs all of us, even the cat that scratches her. She'll grab on to your head or neck or whatever she can circumference and cling like a baby koala. They are the best hugs ever. Yet I'm that jaded adult who tries to back out early. And by early I mean five minutes in. I've found myself apologizing to god and my dead mother and to unloved people everywhere when I pull away thinking that the embrace has come to a conclusion, only to find that we're still midway grasp. And then she drops her head back on my shoulder and I'm transported. Transported to the manliest man that I'll ever be. Go ahead, send out your best. I'll take them. I'll take them down with my one free arm and the leg that hasn't gone numb. You get a little kid crawling into your neck nook for comfort and you're a goddamn oak tree. You're not just the Lion King, you're the rock on which that wise monkey guy introduced Simba to the world. Goddamn someone say an Amen. Say it. It's beautiful.

 Smile.

Smile.

 Pounce.

Pounce.

 And hold.

And hold.

 

And then I try and lie her in her bed. Because it's bedtime and it seems like a natural transition.

And then we're back. Standing and hugging. And I imagine a statue made out of us. Actually, there would be no making anything as we are the statue. Just this old dude and this little girl clamped onto him like the cutest goiter ever. How does she get it? How does she know? Surely there's some innate drive for love and warmth and comfort, but what's being transferred in this twelve minute squeeze? Trust. That's good. Warmth. Yep. A surefire message about the power of a tiny person to manipulate the largest person in the house. Seems possible.

I know, it's love. She's a lover. A hugger. An outright adorable brand ambassador for the human race. My getting to hold her is an honor. And she knows it.

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