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Hilarious Spit Take
December 30, 2009

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Babies were everywhere I turned in 2009. Everywhere I went I saw little people running around and crying and laughing and eating and sleeping and I learned a lot from these tiny things. I learned it isn't weird for a two-year-old to know how to use a cell phone. I learned putting a ring bearer in a white tuxedo means you aren't getting your deposit back. I learned if you're trying to keep your pregnancy a secret you shouldn't leave an ultrasound on the counter when you have company over, and there were other things, too.

It seems the kids who have just learned to walk are the ones who get held the most. Probably because they're the ones who are most likely to wander into trouble, like a busy street or the kitchen of a restaurant or the bathroom after an uncle has been in there for a while. I always knew people love to hold little kids but I learned it's not so much, "Come here so I can give you a huge, little guy," but more like, "I don't know how you keep getting on top of the fridge, but it's not happening again on my watch."

And I also learned that babies always wear hats. Stocking caps with ears like a bear, a fireman's helmet, Old Navy baseball caps of fictitious teams, Native American-style headdresses made out of wrapping paper, the list is endless. The hats make an already interesting little creature even more interesting to look at, yet babies don't understand. Whenever I make eye contact with a baby they look back at me like I'm some jerk with a staring problem, and their inability to talk only makes them seem more judgmental. It's like they're thinking, "What's your problem, pal? You've never seen a two-foot tall human being in ducky jammies chew on a remote control before? Get a life, weirdo."

The only thing worse than the critical eye contact is when they look away. There's no harder kick to your self-esteem than a baby finds something more interesting than you to look at.

The most important thing I learned about little kids and babies in 2009 was the difference between throwing up and spitting up. I graduated from a Big Ten school so I thought I had this one down. Something in your stomach decides it doesn't want to be there anymore and next thing you know you're calling dinosaurs. We've all been there. I thought when a little kid threw up it was done for the day, game over, time to head home. But little kids spit up all the time, they just go ahead and do it whenever they're ready. A lot of people already know this but it was news to me until a couple of weeks ago. A friend from Kansas City had come to town with his wife and two-year-old son for some Christmas shopping. After lunch at his sister-in-law's in West Des Moines he and his son opted out of the trip to the mall in favor of watching football at a bar downtown (pretty sure this was the dad's idea). I met them at the bar and the two-year-old drank milk in a plastic cup while his dad and I drank Guiness and caught up. It was pretty casual until the two-year-old coughed up his milk onto his shirt and down on the floor. Had there been time I might have panicked, but the dad was on his feet quick with napkins in hand. After whispering a few choice words to himself (words I'm not allowed to repeat in Twist & Shout) he wiped his son's shirt and let what was on the bar floor stay there (on further review the December slush from our shoes had made a bigger mess). What the dad said to the son was more scolding than compassionate. He was kind of mad rather than worried, and it became clear this wasn't the first time it had happened. I initially thought we would have to take the kid home, or even to the hospital. I was clueless, even a little scared. But I was quickly told, "He does it on purpose, he's just screwing around and I hate it when he does that. He's fine."

I never imagined a two-year-old could purposefully regurgitate milk in a public place but the little guy was back to smiling and giggling before his shirt had even been wiped. He wasn't trying to spit up, he just decided not to stop it when it happened. When I thought about it, it was just a kid clowning around with his dad, trying to amuse himself. I learned little kids think the same way as the rest of us.

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