We went out to eat for Father’s day, both children in tow. Normally, this is an adventure in death-wishes, as the kids either act like monkeys (and not the tame ones, either) or choose a restaurant that features cuisine whose quality is inversely proportionate to the presence of playlands. But as a special gift to Daddy, they behaved wonderfully during a grown-up meal. It helped that Sam had just spent two hours napping in the car as we returned from the McWane center in Birmingham, but the real success was in his falling in love with our server.
One of the big excitements of the trip was that Caroline has started eating a meat product. Ground beef. She likes it sprinkled liberally with Parmesan Cheese. Please note: she does not eat hamburger, and first tried taco meat under Scott’s genius deception that it was ground-smoked-sausage. (We had worked her around to smoked sausage last summer when she accidentally ate one of Sam’s nasty little Vienna sausages and loved it. We had then disguised cold hot dogs and smoked sausage as Vienna sausage to get her to try them, and she stuck with them even after she learned their real names.) She quickly figured out that the ground beef was not smoked sausage, and has even come to the conclusion that hamburger and ground beef are both “made out of cow”. But she will not yet accept that they are the same product prepared in different ways.
As I was explaining this bizarre order to our server, Lauren, Sam caught the woman’s eye and announced, “I’m Sam,” completely interrupting me.
“You’re Sam?” she asked.
Suddenly bashful, he ducked behind my arm and smiled.
When she next attended our table, to tell us Caroline’s order wasn’t a problem, Sam informed her, “I’m needing some apple juice, pwease.” Notice that. He pronounced the “L” in apple, but not in “please”. He was doing it on purpose.
“I haven’t got any apple juice, Sam” she told him. “But I can get you a strawberry lemonade”.
“I love wemonade”. There. He did it again. If I had wondered before, now I was certain. The kid was flirting.
Let me be the first to tell you, he does not get this ability from either of his parents. Flirtation is a skill involving a careful balance of innocence and insouciance, and Scott and I couldn’t pull it off even back when we both were single. I’m too blunt, and Scott is too subtle.
Have I mentioned that I hadn’t even placed my own order yet, and Sam had only mentioned his desire for apple juice in a passing kind of way to me? He saved the request for Lauren. He was gazing at her, ensuring her attention was all on him. “I don’t wike gwound beef,” he said. “I want the macaroni and cheese.” Now he was doing it with the “R’s”.
“Sure thing,” Lauren told him, nodding very seriously.
Sam got bored waiting for our food, so he stood on the bench and popped his head up to catch Lauren’s eye. He did this only when sitting beside me paging “LuuuuLuuuu come baaack” proved inaudible outside our booth in the noisy restaurant. Lulu? Once he’d peered around long enough, he found her and cocked his head to attract her attention. He tilted his head ever so slightly, then sat back down smiling. Sure enough, Lauren arrived a few seconds later.
“I need more bwead,” he told her, adding “Pwease” only after I reminded him to use his manners.
“Honey,” I told him, “You need to let Lauren help the other people. It’s very busy in here and…”
“I know,” he said, “and she’s the food teacher.” Was that what this was? Was it a show of how he acts at school? Is this why Miss Terry adores him even though he’s got some serious behavior issues? (And believe me, Miss Terry isn’t letting his charming butt get away with anything.)
He continued to flirt with Lauren throughout the meal, requesting his own drink refill and telling me earnestly when it took her more than two whole minutes to get back with it, “It’s taking for a vewy long time, but I am going to wait and do a good job.” Was this the same kid I had to fish out of the light fixtures and encourage to instead run up and down the aisles in Red Robin not four whole weeks ago?
I’d be more suspicious of a body double if I didn’t know his grandfathers. Scott and I both lack the aforementioned flirting skills. But my Dad can be a smooth talker when he needs to be. And Scott’s Dad is simply delightful, combining an open nature and a prankster’s wit in an utterly irresistible way. Watching Sam with Lauren was like watching a combination of the two grandfathers. Sam was far more coy than Granddaddy and far more forward than Papa Dave, and it was the ideal mixture of the two personalities. It was as though he’d spent the last three weeks stirring the lessons of Belle and Cinderella in with his preexisting genetic tendencies to produce a full-fledged ladies’ man in a four year old body.
In fact, as we were leaving, he told Lauren, “I’m four alweady.” Like, ‘honey, just you wait a dozen years or so and I’ll be back for you.’ Then, he said, “Bye bye, Lulu.”
And she told him, “You come see me any time, Sam,” as I hustled him out the door.
I can already see it coming.
This is going to get worse before he’s a teenager, and he’s going to run circles around his parents if we don’t learn some new tactics fast. And God help the girls in his high school class, because he’s going to be twisting them around his fingers like so many rings. Look out girls. Here comes Sam.