As Olivia is getting bigger, more self-aware, and mobile, we're actually starting to discover many "games" together. The most entertaining by far is the recently worked out "boo daddy!", also known as "got the baby!" However, as with all games there are definite rules, and breaking them can lead to ruin.
"Your turn with this child!" Ellen said as she plopped Olivia on her feet in front of me, with a dripping snaggle-toothed chocolate grin on her face, "M&Ms aren't holding her back and Amber and I need to cook!"
We were over at Ron and Amber's house for dinner. While Ron and I were drinking and discussing the finer points of why car mechanic shows needed a flouncy blonde announcer, Ellen and Amber were in the kitchen doing... oh hell I don't know, doing something that involved a lot of chattering and the occasional high-pitched squeal. When guys are watching TV the women around them turn into blurry clucking objects that flutter around the edges, sort of like chickens in sweatshirts.
But as with all male constructs, a woman simply has to be determined to break through the barrier, and nothing shatters a TV-woven cocoon quite as well as a babbling 2-foot tall M&M addict. "Dah-DEE dah-DEE wup woh ric grrrr" [chocolate-covered hand flops twice], which in Olivia-speak means "pay attention to me now or the couch gets it." So, thinking quickly, I hopped up, yelled "oh no! It's Olivia!" and ran down the hallway.
This puzzled her enough that the upholstery was saved. This was very unusual daddy-behavior. As she peered down the hall I poked my head around the corner, gasped, and quickly pulled back. "Ok, now that's really strange," you could almost hear her think, "I wonder what he's up to? I can see his pants leg... I bet I can smear chocolate on him before he grabs me!" So, with a sly grin, she started toddling down the hall, smudgy hands held high.
Since just about the only thing behind the corner of the hall was my head, I was easily able to track her movements, and once she got about 3/4ths the way down I rushed from around the corner with a "GRRRR!!! GOT THE BABY!" This immediately resulted in wide eyes, a hop of surprise, and a great big belly laugh. I scooped her up as I went by, tickled her belly for a second, set her back down at the other end of the hall, then turned around and ran away with another "oh no! It's Olivia!"
The spark of recognition was instant and obvious. "Time to find daddy!" This time, giggling the whole way, she immediately headed down the hall. When I jumped out we were all regaled with a huge belly laugh that continued the whole way back down the hall. The rest of the game was spent with me dropping Olivia off at the start of the hall and then having to beat her back to the corner as she chased me. Eventually everyone was watching and having a great time.
Fast forward to the next day. Olivia decides she's done eating before we are, so Ellen pops her out of the high chair and sets her down. This is Quite Simply Not Good Enough for the princess, who insists that mommy is also done eating and must come play. So, bowing to the inevitable, Ellen gets up from the table to oblige.
"Why don't you play 'got the baby'? She really liked that." I suggested, innocently enough.
Now, our house is laid out quite differently... no hallways. So instead, Ellen placed Olivia at one end of the living room, then hid behind the kitchen counter.
And when I say hid, I mean hid. It slowly dawned on me that Ellen had not really been paying attention to the rules of "got the baby". The objective was not to in fact hide from the baby, but instead was to allow the baby to find you. An admittedly subtle but very important distinction, as time was quickly to reveal.
You see, Ellen's competitive nature had taken hold and she had obviously decided to improve on daddy's piss-poor hiding performance by completely disappearing from view. This greatly puzzled Olivia, who was cautiously walking up to mommy's disembodied calls of "o-LIVVV-EE-AAA.... o-LIVVV-EE-AAA!", trying to figure out exactly where mommy had gone. I was just opening my mouth to warn Ellen she wasn't playing properly when four things happened in very quick succession:
Ellen leapt out from behind the counter, landing on both feet with a BANG! on the kitchen tile, and immediately ran straight at Olivia with arms extended letting loose not a silly growl but a mighty "ROAR!!!"
Olivia jumped about a foot into the air and landed squarely on her butt, bug-eyed with surprise, and immediately began a huge "silent scream."
Ellen rushed to her side, snatched her up, hugged her and started yelling, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Mommy's so sorry!"
Both then burst into tears.
So there I was, sitting there almost literally with spaghetti hanging out of my mouth, helpless as this tiny opera rapidly unwound in front of me. Greek tragedies don't have this much emotional impact. Hurricanes don't make this much noise. Worse still, like a master chess player who's attention lapses just long enough to make exactly one wrong move, I suddenly could see my fate unfolding, preordained and unavoidable.
Checkmate ocurred slightly later, after everyone had calmed down. "Why didn't you tell me I was doing it wrong?!? You knew she was going to react this way! You were the one that made up this stupid game! Now look how upset you let me make her!"