The scene: It’s New Year’s Eve and we’re without a babysitter and have a baby and toddler in tow. The torchlight parade at Whitefish Mountain Resort draws hundreds of onlookers, spectators and, come to find out, parents. Kids have their hot chocolate and parents are drinking microbrews. We socialize and watch the busy scene. Our toddlers are ruling the roost, with the rhythmic Cocinando band in the background.

The zoo-like scene sends our oldest reeling. She loves every moment. She’s allowed to pad around in her long underwear while high-fiving her other mini shred friends who are doing the same. The evening pushes on past 7:30 p.m., the bedtime marker. But it’s ignored due to the holiday.

Sugar highs and adrenaline rushes keep the kids awake as we interact with our non-parent friends watching the same scene. This is when our toddler strikes – she pulls a new and shocking move only witnessed by one childless, but lovely, friend.

Hidden under the table inspecting the inner workings of what is holding the table upright, she makes direct eye contact with said friend sitting next to the interesting table.

Her eyes radiant, she lurks underneath the table, never breaking her game-time gaze and slowly takes her shoe off and licks the entire length of its sole. Only then does she break eye contact and comes out from under the table’s overhang and proceeds to play with her friends as if nothing happened.

What?! Where did you learn that?

Doesn’t matter – it is hysterical and disgusting. And, as I get the full story retold to me by my horrified friend, I can’t help but think:

a) He is completely grossed out, as I am. Yes.

b) He thinks she is probably going to need medical and urgent attention. No.

c) This confirms his “never having kids” mantra. Perhaps.

As I’m chuckling, listening and adding comments like “oh my” and “she has never done that before” to his reenactment of my toddler’s performance, I’m struck with an additional assumption. I’m now imagining he thinks she saw me do that, or I showed her how to lick her shoe. Where else would a toddler come up with such a thing?

I want to explain that kids just do things (weird and gross things) all the time on their own. But the words come out jumbled, so I give up.

Believe it or not, we don’t teach our kids how to lick the bottom of shoes, pick noses, draw on the floor, pour water on their dinner or anything else that may cause a gag reflex. We don’t. They just do it. Their brains are firing on so many levels and they push the envelope on a daily basis. It is interesting to see them flex their muscles, see reactions, learn boundaries, imagine the what-ifs, act on them without inhibition and move on.

Big picture: She is a colorful, creative person who will often keep us up at night, but deliver endless joy, too. She’ll be a combination of her parents’ teachings and something all her own. We’re just trying to cultivate a person better than ourselves who can navigate this world and make wise decisions. In reality, kids, adults, all of us, do things that don’t make sense. And that behavior starts early.

As for my traumatized friend, I think that scene will forever be burned into his memory as a particularly low point to his overall fine New Year’s Eve. And I hope the shoe licking doesn’t deter him from having kids of his own.

Sammi is a mother, wife, business owner and production and marketing director at the Flathead Beacon in Kalispell. Have an idea for a column, or a story to share? Email