Cuteness currency

Oh, what adorableness will buy these days.

After we dropped off Peanut at kindergarten, Butter and I wandered the streets of our delightful town. About half a block from the school, a woman was leaning toward a car and talking and laughing with someone inside. She walked away laughing heartily. Presumably, someone she knew and liked was inside the car. As we got close, Butter walked right over to the car window and peered in.

A man looked up from his phone and smiled. “Why, hi there! I’m Jeff. Who are you?”

I answered for the almost-two-year-old and smiled. Jeff pretended to have a conversation with Butter for a few lines, asking him about the weather and his day. And Butter waved and said, “bye bye.” Then, just as the woman did, he walked away from the window laughing. A big, hearty, fake laugh. I waved to Jeff, beaming because he was so tolerant of a toddler’s curiosity–behavior that Jeff would not have enjoyed from someone older.

Later, we walked past a florist’s cart. Butter stopped to look at the flowers. The florist, who always watches him as we walk by, swooped over with a rose. “This is for you,” she bowed to my tiny son. He smelled it. It was a gorgeous, thickly petaled red rose, the kind where the petals’ backsides are meaty and creased, and their faces are glowing velvet. I’m guessing the stem had broken and the florist kept it despite its obvious unsaleability.

Butter sat down with his flower, right near her cart, and ripped every single petal from the flower’s head. He studied the remaining stem, stamina, and carpels. He tossed these aside, gathered the petals into his empty water cup, and left his generous friend without a second glance. I offered her a thank you and an explanation that Butterbean likes rose petals in his bath, but she didn’t care what I had to say. She had eyes only for him, forgiving him instantly for behavior that would seem horrifying out of a school-age child.

Both of these incidents had me thinking, “you sure get away with a lot because you’re cute.” Humans, in general, are willing to cut small people some serious slack on the whole Social Expectations thing. When Butter lies down in people’s driveways to feel gravel on his face (swear to Penelope it’s one of his favorite things to do), nobody calls the cops. When he twirls around parking meters and signposts, people smile rather than shying away. His behavior in and adult would portend serious mental issues.

But when my toddler screams bloody murder because he can’t figure out how to open a bag, passersby just smile at me, knowing full well I’m doing my best and Butter is, too. Kind of makes up for all the difficult things about being a toddler, doesn’t it, Butterbug?

They treat him, in short, like a guest to our planet. And their largesse makes me reciprocate to other adults, because I would have much more fun on our planet if we all treated each other like guests.