two of my daughters have jobs this year as nannies. they both watch adorable baby girls, and sometimes they will be here at the same time and we will all hang out in the kitchen together.

in addition to being a truly heart-warming look ahead at life as a grandma, these times remind me of things i forgot about when my kids were that little.

and one of those things is how much young children just love counting.

if you tell a baby: one… two… three… she will just crack up. and you can do it over and over again and that baby will giggle and giggle like you told the best joke ever.

one…two…three… is imbued with such magical hilarity that you can almost see the anticipation building in that baby’s eyes as you get closer and closer to the end. then- boom! 3! and hahahahahahaha all over the place…

but at at certain point you start counting down your kids and they know all heck is gonna break loose. they know they darn well better get to gettin’ before you finish counting or the walls are gonna tumble down and they are not going to like what happens next.

sometimes there is a specified consequence, like, “if you don’t pick up those toys before i count to three i’m going to throw them out the window and run over them with my car!” (which of course i would never say! no, i would calmly state that the toys would be donated to needy children at a local homeless shelter, of course…)

but sometimes the very act of counting is enough to instill fear in the hearts and minds of your offspring.

so after seeing these babies laughing away at the mere mention of those hilarious numbers, i wondered, at what age do numbers become so utterly frightening?

is this why americans are so math-phobic?

because we don’t have the same hang-ups about letters.

you never hear a parent say to a child, “you’d better clean up your room before i get to the letter ‘g’ or you are gonna regret it, mister!”  “a…b…c…”

and babies don’t find that funny, either. yes, they may enjoy a rousing round of the alphabet song now and again, but i’ve never really seen a baby light up over particular letters.

when they get to a certain age they like to join in and show you that they can say this or that letter, but it’s more a game of performance art than a comedy show.

it’s like letters don’t have inherent consequences, but numbers-whoa, man- numbers are just pregnant with foreboding.

so how do we just know that, even as little kids?

and what’s up with that?

and when babies laugh at numbers early on, is that perchance nervous laughter?