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The little boy was chattering like a chipmunk who’d just discovered an unattended stash of ripe hazelnuts and I could hear him from across the McDonald’s “dining room.” Not too loud, but loud enough to be heard. Usually I’m not a fan of parents letting their children act like, well, children no matter where they may be. If I’m at a nice restaurant and your two year old starts screaming and can’t stop, remove her until she calms down. She’s just doing what two year olds do, but that’s not my fault, so let her do it where she doesn’t disturb others because that’s part of your responsibility as a parent. Little kids jabbering quietly, though, are no different than adults talking, so if that bothers you while in a nice restaurant, you might want to think about getting over yourself unless you’ve paid extra for a child-free dining experience. If you’re at the grocery store and your son throws himself screaming to the floor in protest of the fact that you won’t let him have the giant box of Sour Patch Kids that the bastards put next to the check-out line, that’s also part of the job of being a toddler. I don’t go to the grocery store expecting peace and quiet, though, so the only looks you’ll get from me are of sympathy (after I wipe the smug “thank god I’m so done with that” look off my face). If you don’t want to hear little kids chattering and shrieking, don’t go to McDonalds (by the way, if you go to McDonalds, don’t complain about the food; it’s not like the menu is a surprise).

This little boy was in a corner booth with what looked like Mom, Grandma and Grandpa, Great Grandma, and Aunty. His slightly older siblings and cousins were climbing on the bacteria incubator in the play area, so he was the lone child walking on the bench and climbing over the adoring adults sitting at the table. I watched (no, stared at) this scene, listening to him chattering happily, seemingly unaware of all the adoration he was generating just by being him. All of his family’s attention was focused on him and his toddlerness. They laughed when he’d tumble while trying to crawl over Grandpa, help him get from Mom to Aunty, grab onto his diaper-filled shorts when he tried to climb on the table, try to coax a few more bites of chicken nugget into the general direction of his stomach. Every so often he’d spot a relative in the play area and squeal with delight.

While I tire of parents who assume that the world must stop while their children’s needs are attended to, as if their children are more important than everyone else’s children, I watched this scene and couldn’t help but think how wonderful it is for someone to be the center of someone else’s universe and the focus of so much loving attention. Every child should at some point feel like the most important person in the world.

When our son, our first child, was a baby I’d watch his movements and mannerisms, the way he’d stretch his arms up and open his hands while sleeping. The way he’d scrunch his face and shake his head when hungry. The way he’d purse his lips or open his eyes wide while smiling. I loved the baby noises that he, matchless among all babies, made. I so enjoyed all of these mannerisms, unique to our new perfect son. I’ve never been enamored with other people’s babies simply because they’re babies and had never been around new babies for more than a few minutes. My sister-in-law, while describing herself, perfectly captured my attitude: “I can not touch a baby, but I can’t not touch a puppy.” Even after we’d both had children.

When you have a baby you tend to become more aware of other babies so it’s a bit of a shock to notice that the baby girl in the shopping cart makes exactly the same face as your son does when he’s sleeping. Before too long you can’t help but realize that your unique miracle of a child is, in many respects, just another kid. And that you are just another parent, one of billions. While we should all continue to think of our children as unique and special, we do our children a disservice if we expect everyone else to do the same. Although, our kids? They actually were the cutest and most special you’ve ever seen:

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Two in a long series of “Daddy asleep with babies/kids/puppies/kitties . . .”

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First day of school. C2 starting kindergarten, which would make C1, um, older. Just the other day C1 was asking me where he might find a pair of shorts that color. Why, yes, that is a Jeep hardtop in the background.

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Not the first day of school. Knowing the time period, my guess is some sort of party at C1’s house, perhaps where a group of young people gathered to knit mittens for a homeless shelter, while doing their homework, while playing ping pong. Or some sort of pong. This, mommy and daddy bloggers, is where you’re headed. And it’s good.