More from the way-back machine: They were so cute when they didn’t have wills to challenge us with. He is still a great kid, but things aren’t so easy now.
M. is cool-dino-mad these days. Everything is cool. Cool this, and cool that but most of all: “mean dinosaurs are cool.” I wish that I could write “cool” like Mason pronounces it when he says “That’s cool,” or “that’s not cool.” COO-el, or better COO-wel is the best written pronounciation I can come up with.I know that it is the generic little boy way of saying those words, but watching it on my little three and a half year old son’s face, with his enthusiasm and emphasis, just makes me melt. He is just so invested in the coolness of the denizens of the Jurassic, through cretaceous epochs. If it is less than the size of a school-bus, or younger than 65 million years old it just doesn’t rate (unless it is Jason Giambi the first-baseman for the A’s [hey he was with the A’s then]).
I don’t know if he is cuter when he asserts coolness on something, or seeks approval for the coolness of something. I do know that the denial of coolness is always intoxicatingly cute. “That’s not cool! T-Rexes are cool!” In this little assertion, lisped in juvenile assertiveness, is all the confidence and certainty of the shorter set. Doubt never enters the mind of the absolutely positive M. S. G. When he is like this even his big sister’s assertions of the order of things don’t matter. He knows. He is right and sure and good.
I vaguely remember trying in vain to convince my parents of the coolness of Batman’s utility belt on one of the benches facing west in Tompkins Square Park. I remember looking to the congueros as their beats washed over us from the central benches and tables one sunny afternoon. It must have been a weekend because my Dad was there, and couldn’t wrap his mind around the absolute coolness of all of the things which came out of Batman’s utility belt, just when he needed them. I am sure that he agreed with me so that he could get back to the Sunday Times, Pall Mall and container of coffee. But I knew he didn’t really get how cool the yellow utility belt was.
Even though I get down on my knees and play dinosaurs with Mason, and show him the claws, or teeth, or speed, or meanness that I think is cool about his t-rex, or carnotaurus, or velociraptor, or deinonychus, I know he is unconvinced about my ability to really understand the essential elements of coolness. When I get too enthusiastic he gets a bemused expression on his round face and says, “naw, Daddy, that’s not cool!” He is kind in his amused sadness about my complete inability to understand even the most basic tenets of coolness. I think he knows that I am just trying to “be down” and that I cannot possibly understand the terms, conditions and limitations of coolness. He sees my sycophancy for what it is, a desperate attempt to be a part of my son’s life.
Angel, his crony and thick gossip understands (and defines) cool in ways that I will never ever get in a million years of trying. (Not that any of us have anywhere near that time with our ever-growing offspring.) So when I see the two of them playing at daycare and I try to insinuate my way into their circle of two they tolerate me, knowing that grown-ups just don’t get it. Even if we are the ones who read them the books which give them the expertise which undergirds dino-cool, we can’t seem to use the special little boy decoder ring which translates it all into cool. This decoder-ring, as precise and accurate as the enigma machine, and twice as hard to crack is forever on a shelf grown-ups can’t reach. I can make the exact same observation about a pachycephalasaurus’s head as Angel a minute before him, and it is still “not cool” until Angel encodes it.