Monday, September 25, 2006

Time to Be a Child

More Girl stories. Happy ones this time.

One day The Girl came home from kindergarten, skipped straight to the refrigerator, and put up a magnet. Next, she pulled the door open and got out her favorite snack—a handful of red grapes. While she munched happily, I glanced at the magnet, a red wood heart with white script letters that spelled out, “I Love You.”

“Hey, Sweetie,” I said, “Where’d you get this magnet?”

“From John,” she replied matter-of-factly.

She had never mentioned anyone named John and I didn’t know him. Ever aware of the danger of strangers, I followed up.

“Who is he? And why did he give this to you?” I asked.

“Oh, he’s in my class. And he’s in love with me,” she answered with about the same tone she might use in describing what she had for lunch. Totally unconcerned and unimpressed, she breezed into the family room to watch cartoons. Over her shoulder, she called back,

“I told him he’ll have to wait. I’m still a child.”

I had to leave the room so she wouldn’t see or hear me laughing.

Boys continued to pursue my bright little girl throughout the next few years. She tolerated some of them and discouraged others. In 5th grade, for the first time she accepted a boy’s invitation to be his “girlfriend.” When I asked what this meant, she explained they would talk to each other on the phone and sit next to each other at lunch.

Seemed harmless enough.

The boy, whose name escapes me right now, began calling right after school each afternoon. He also called after dinner and before bedtime. If The Girl wasn’t home, he called friends and neighbors until he figured out where she was playing. Even when she was home, she didn’t always want to talk with him and sometimes told him she was busy. This only made him call more often.

Finally, one afternoon she came home from a friend’s house with a weary expression. “Mom,” she said. “I’m just going to have to tell him I can’t be his girlfriend. He doesn’t want me to like anyone but him. And that’s crazy.”

Not wanting to eavesdrop but unable to stifle my curiosity, I was relieved to find I could hear her side of the conversation from my room.

“Sorry to tell you,” she said. “We have to break up. I’m too young to have a boyfriend. I’m a child.”

Back to the closet, this time to stifle laughter.

Boys weren’t the only people with whom The Girl defended her childhood. Even I got the treatment once.

When she was in 6th grade, The Girl started swimming lessons with the other neighborhood children. After the 2nd lesson, the teacher called to tell me that The Girl didn’t need a swimming teacher, she needed a coach. She was, claimed the teacher, extraordinarily gifted and could be a top-notch competitive swimmer.

That night, I told The Girl about the teacher’s call and asked if she wanted to join a swim team.

“No, Mom. I do not want to be on a swim team,” she replied in a tone that suggested she was speaking to someone with cognitive difficulties.

“Just because I’m good at something doesn’t mean I need to compete at it or be on a team. I already take too many lessons and stuff.”

Finally, her knock-out punch.

“I’m a child. I need some time to just be a child."

‘Nuff said.

When we moved out of the house in Minneapolis, we took the heart magnet off the refrigerator for the first time. It had stayed there almost 12 years, a constant reminder that we all need time to just be a child.


Mystic Wing said...

Just out of curiosity....

Do you ever write a bad story?

Though I imagine there may be some stories on this blog you choose NOT to share with Girl (ahem),you should most certainly E-mail her the text from the this one.

Kids sometimes don't realize the impact they have on us. Ain't it grand?

Suzy said...

I agree with Mystic Wing. Is ANYTHING you write ever bad or mediocre? I think not!
Great story. For some reason The Girl's "knock out punches" and independence are on a par with her mom's....
Beautiful photo, beautiful story.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Ahhhh, such a great story, such a great daughter/child/human!