Thursday, February 01, 2007

bean dip?

For 3½ hours this morning we were out and about, all on foot. First was music class, then brunch, and next the bookstore for story time and train play. On the way home, Eliza noticed dandelions poking out from a crack and we stopped right there and sat on the sidewalk to examine them and the ice plants.

Flower in the crannied wall
I pluck you out of the crannies; -
Hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower - but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what G.d and man is.

Tennyson's poem has always been meaningful to me, but never more so than today with my own daughter contemplating the simple complexity or complex simplicity of a weed.

We went along our way and were about to round the corner to go home when Eliza pleaded to play at the park. Why not? We took our sweet time getting there, as everything fascinates her - pine cones, clusters of violet flowers, dirt - but today was special . . . today a hummingbird perched on the fence just inches from us. I put my finger to my lips in a silent gesture. I couldn't believe the bird was still sitting there; I've never seen one that close in my life. I lifted Eliza so she could see it from my vantage point. This is the child who sends the cat racing to hide under the bed, but something in her azure eyes told me she understood this moment required delicacy. Not a word escaped her lips. The bird flew away, and she sighed.

The park was empty except for an older woman with a young boy. Eliza was being unusually talkative considering she was among strangers. When the woman's 3-year-old charge couldn't answer her question of how many beads there were, Eliza answered instead. From then on, the woman wouldn't leave me alone. I'm a friendly person, but it takes me time to warm up to new people, and so I prefer to keep to myself around strangers. She couldn't stop talking about how smart my daughter is and demanded to know where she went for preschool. Uh-oh. Want some bean dip? "She doesn't. Chilly out here, isn't it?" She persisted, asking about daycare instead. "No daycare. I wish I'd brought my jacket." Eliza continued to giggle, chasing after the boy as the woman continued to grill me. She rattled off a list of nearly-synonymous words for daycare and preschool, perhaps thinking I hadn't understood. "No, nothing. It sure is cold - I can't wait for spring." The woman was shocked. Her expression said it all: How is it possible this child isn't intellectually stunted?

When she first introduced herself, she told me she was a daycare administrator and told me how much she paid for each of her houses and how many square feet they contained. I simply responded with my name and a shy smile, hoping she should leave me in peace. The next thing she told me was that it wasn't right to have just one child and that I needed more. Eliza had asked me a question at the same time, so I got out of responding to the woman. On the way home, I thought how obnoxious I found it to be told by a complete stranger that I needed more children and that my daughter should have been in daycare by 4 months old at the latest. I'm glad the option of daycare (in-home or center) exists for those who need/want it, but this woman had crossed the line. She insisted my daughter must be quite unusual. Please - spare me. Perhaps if this woman knew all the bright, inquisitive, imaginative, sweet-natured 2-year-olds that I do she wouldn't be tempted to write off Eliza as a rare creature. But I didn't say this. I didn't defend my choices to her. I just passed the bean dip and went home.

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