“I just want you to know, she has the best manners ever.” The woman behind the ice cream counter is talking about my daughter. “I mean, lots of grownups come in here and aren’t so respectful,” she continues. “She is just great.”
(P.S. comments like these make up for the fact today Nels went out in the world with eyes he’d blackened by my eyeshadow and his Halloween costume spotted with ketchup and Sophie’s black, glittery Mary Janes which he used to stomp in puddles)
I know it to be true; the other day at lunch in a busy restaurant Sophie had leaned past my mother and said, “Excuse me, may I have a refill of water please?” to our waitress in the most clear, direct manner. I credit myself, just a bit. In fact my children’s manners and forthrightness have only improved since I’ve stopped constantly prompting them and highly-socializing their every move. Sophie in particular blossoms when I am quiet, supportive, and present and I wait until later to remind her of something she might have tried differently. It’s not always easy to walk the line of providing assistance to children but not hounding them; I was raised by a prompting mother and I have some very bad habits of doing the same.
Our son is equally forthright and direct; he doesn’t always attach a “please”. I trust the modeling of Ralph, myself – and now Sophie – will help with time. Nels is kind of infuriatingly able to stick up for himself – it’s come naturally to him since the get-go. Today at this rather pathetic little swap meet shop we came away with a tiny Fiesta-esque tea set and miniscule wire hanger for $1.50 (Nels and Ralph are building a dollhouse; my son’s latest obsession is furnishing the thing). As we left the shop Nels kept pestering me: “Why didn’t we take the [equally ridiculously miniscule plastic goblet-style] glass too?” and I was saying, “Well, I only wanted to purchase one thing for you,” and my son said, “It was free, there was no dollars on it,” (meaning a price tag) and I said, “Well you can’t just ask for stuff for free,” and Nels said calmly, “Of course you can,” and I realized, ker-thump, actually he’s right, and all that junk in that place was going to be packed up or thrown out soon anyway since the business was closing in a day or two and the damn tiny piece of plastic would have been dearly loved by my boy.
Maybe this is what makes us old. At a certain point our kids are just right about so much more than we are.
Maybe this is what makes us young: at a certain point we get to be kids again. Yesterday – our last dryer-free day – I took my mom’s car to haul some wet laundry. She has a satellite radio service and as is my wont I flipped to the 80s station; soon The Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men” came on and I turned it up, laughing. The kids asked what we were listening to. “It’s a really good song,” I said, realizing the moment I said it that – as campy and silly and as many times as I’d heard it, I really did like it. And my kids – raised in the home of a rock star – listened intently and thoroughly to the entire song without, of course, a cracked smile at the exaggerated, bawdy content. It is so weird to see someone experience something that feels mundane or old or whatever – for the first time. I could see the little gears in their head whirring as they cocked an ear and took it all in.
It’s been an odd night. An odd day! The kids dressed in their Max costumes before going out to swim team and then dinner; this evening I receive a record-number of comments from people at the YMCA, restaurant, ice cream parlor, on the street. While we eat our ice cream a two year old girl spots my son and begins pointing and babbling to her parents, “It’s Max, it’s Max!” The wee tot is more into Nels than her ice cream; she can’t take her eyes off him as I try to talk to her. Her parents tell me the movie version of Where The Wild Things Are is her hands-down favorite. After a bit of chat and some more costume admiration I tell them, “You should give me your number. When he grows out of the costume I’d love to give it to her, if she’s still into it. Sometimes I don’t end up with someone to give costumes to so I just donate them.” I’m thinking of last Halloween and Ralph’s Wonder Woman digs which I couldn’t get packed up and out of the house fast enough, given it was a quickie sewing job I wasn’t too proud of (incidentally my Drowned Prom Queen costume ended up being mailed to a friend who will be recycling elements into Old Gregg – awesome!). The family seems happy at the costume promise and my son benignly accepting of his occasional celebrityhood. As things should be.
Today (the few minutes left of it) was Official Delurker Day 2010 (nevermind the sexual assault-inspired logo, gag, I still like the premise). It made me think about the many lurkers on my blog (which I’m fine with!) and those who hounded me (for years!) to enable comments yet never commented and how I felt in my years before comments and how I’m feeling now. And I know this is all winding up for me to say something really elegant and essential about keeping one’s diary online so here it is:
“I’m not sure it’s good to think back to my childhood memories, because I end up feeling happy and sad at the same time, and that gives me a weird ‘neutral’ feeling.”