This post was first published in Practical Parenting Magazine, March 2016
It felt impossible to believe that this tiny, blinking baby would morph into a full and complex person. And I’m almost certain that in all the different possibilities I conjured, I never imagined that one day this child would like to inhabit the character of a guy she called Creepy Dude.
At nine, my Peanut is in the full and spectacular bloom of childhood. She’s a delight – so utterly herself, in the calm harbour between the worries of her younger, more sensitive years, and the approaching maelstrom of puberty. She’s in this wonderful place where she’s old enough to bodysurf the waves, and young enough to be swept up in a fierce towel-cuddle by Daddy afterwards.
There’s a lot to love about this age. Peanut and her equally offbeat friends have created a club they call the Nerd University of Unicornia. They call it The UUN (rhymes with tune). Spelled backwards, just for kicks. The UUN spend a lot of time planning their meetings, at which they march around the backyard saluting like tiny Communists, except that their marching song is about pizza rather than the uprising of the oppressed working classes. The UUN anthem is a sight to behold. It’s performed to an awkward boy-band style dance routine and contains this chorus: ‘We’ll fight for the freedom! We’ll fight for our love! We’ll fight for the power! We’ll fight for our lives!’ In between choruses, each member does an introductory rap, using their UUN name. Peanut’s UUN name is Beaver. Short for Justin Beaver. Because she sings all the time. Peanut’s rap goes like this: ‘My n-n-n-n-name is B-B-B-B-Beaver. I am quite like a golden retriever.’ (This is about the point at which I am overcome with cuteness poisoning so severe I have to sit down and put my head between my legs.)
Peanut has another character that we call Creepy Dude. She loves pulling out Creepy Dude because it freaks me out, and messing with her mother brings Peanut great joy. Creepy Dude likes to pluck and pat my shoulder. ‘Hey, lady,’ Peanut says in a low and weird voice. ‘Hey, sexy mama.’
She also has an impersonation she calls ‘Dumb Person Shaving’. It’s hard to describe in words, but suffice to say it is both strange and wonderful.
This kid, this age, is the absolute best. It might be even sweeter because next on the list comes puberty, those mythical Badlands to which Peanut will certainly bring the theatricality she has displayed since childhood. That flamboyance, mixed with a few thousand microliters of estrogen, may make for an interesting cocktail. Fingers crossed that Peanut will keep the comedy, as well as the drama.
I’m looking forward to it, all of it. I adored that sweet baby version of Peanut. I adore the creative comedian of her childhood. And I think I’ll enjoy the adolescent version too. It’s the coolest thing, being ringside for the slow unfurling of a person. I’m incredibly grateful that I get to watch it. I could not have anticipated, nine years ago, that the answer to my question ‘Who are you?’ was going to be, among other things, ‘Creepy Dude’. So I can’t really guess what teen-Peanut, or even grown-lady Peanut will be either. I can’t wait to find out though.