When C1 was about four years old we were at a family gathering. A few of us were in a boat, driving down the lake to the gas dock. We were making the kind of small talk you do when with relatives you don’t see very often and don’t know very well. The cousins in my generation were beginning to have children of our own, so we at least had that in common. I don’t remember what the impetus was, but at some point I told a cute little story, the kind of story every first-time parent has: Our sweet-faced, good-natured son used a swear word in innocent conversation. I don’t remember the details, but something along the lines of “Please pass the damn ham.” You know, kids say the darndest things and all that. Captain OCD used to say, “He’s going to swear in front of your parents and they’re going to think it’s my fault!” Goddamn right they will.
Nary a chuckle out of my cousin’s husband. He began to tell a similar cute-kid story about their son, around the same age as C1 (first – and only, at that point – children for both of us). They were at a birthday party and cupcakes were passed around, with every child taking one cupcake. When the plate got to their son, he took two. My cousin and her husband were horrified that their son had been so selfish and greedy, traits that were entirely out of character for their kind and generous child. They asked him why he took two cupcakes: “Because you’ve told me that Jesus is always with me, and I thought he would want a cupcake.” His palate-cleanser of a story left no doubt that we had different definitions of cute.