Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis

The Kid Always Gets the Last Word

hugh phones homeMy nephew Hugh is two years old. And, as the husband of the sister of his mother, it is my duty to impress him. I am determined to be the Cool Uncle.

Heather and I are in Chicago for a family visit. We’re all gathered at a nice restaurant for dinner – Heather’s sister Claire, Claire’s husband Owen, and their two boys: Eamon, 6, and Hugh, 2. Dinner is lovely, and the paper tablecloth is gradually covered in spent tic-tac-toe grids, doodles, and food scraps.

I’ve noticed, in the short time I’ve spent with parents, that they basically do not eat when their kids do. They eat in the spare moments in between questions and/or tantrums, and then chow down on fast forward just before the staff comes to clear the dishes.

So I’m trying to do my part by distracting Hugh while the parents eat. I grab a pen and draw a dog on the table cloth. The same cartoon dog my dad used to draw for me. “Look, Hugh!” I say. “A dog!”

Hugh examines it closely, considers it, and requests a cat instead.

“Okay, sure.” I say. And whip up a quick cat beside my cartoon dog.

Hugh examines them both for a while, and then says, in the amusing sing-song of a 2 year-old, “Could you draw another cat, except a little bigger and over here?”

I look at Claire. “He’s kind of an art director,” she says.

Art director, huh? I know how to deal with them. So I launch into my best high design speak. “You see, Hugh,” I say, “what I’m trying to show here is that the idea of the cat really is smaller than the dog. In my experience, I’ve found that it’s better to express the vision of reality, than reality itself. User testing shows that, while it might seem counterintuitive, the large dog problem isn’t really a problem at all. In fact, the sheer brilliance of the artistic vision demonstrated on this paper tablecloth is only outshined by its user friendliness.”

Hugh’s eyes go glossy for a moment, and ever so slowly, a smile spreads across his face. I think I’ve design-babbled him into submission, but it turns out he was just coming up with the perfect retort.

“Mommy!” he shouts to Claire, “I made a poopy in my diapee!”

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Hi, I’m Derek. I used to make websites. Now I grow flowers and know things. I’m mostly harmless. More.