Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Little Pictures Have Big Ears

One day when Elizabeth was barely three, the story time lady at the library asked, "Does anyone know what a baby frog is called?"

There was a long silence, and then Elizabeth shouted, "An amphibian!"

So I dove behind the shelf of paperback westerns.

A few minutes later I heard Elizabeth take a pass on the juice and cookies. "No, thank you," she said in a loud and clear voice. "They might give me a headache."

So I was pretending to be engrossed in a western and wishing to goodness I'd chosen a more interesting hideaway, when suddenly a fellow mom was at my elbow.

"That's your child, isn't it," she accused me.

Long silence.

"Umm," I said.

"She's over here," the mom called to a couple of her friends, and they came over to look at me.

So I just stood there for a few moments being looked at.

"She's adopted," I said.

"She looks like you," one of them pointed out, sounding unreasonably certain of her facts..

"I'm-- adopted too," I said lamely, already suspecting they weren't going to buy that either.

They kept on not going away or never being there, so I sighed and launched into the perfectly reasonable explanation for my young daughter's vocabulary and health concerns. But it's long and boring, so you can skip it if you like:

Elizabeth was allergic to anything with wheat flour in it. She'd learned the hard way that cookies gave her a headache, plus she didn't seem to have much of a taste for things made with flour, so cookies had never been very tempting to her. And lately she'd been listening to her Critter County record incessantly, the way young children today watch the same video or dvd over and over and over and over-- (this was before videos)-- so she'd heard the woman on the record say a few dozen times that a frog is an amphibian.

See? Boring and perfectly reasonable. Any child could have done the same. But those three women left the library that day still clearly convinced that they'd met an eccentric three-year-old.  Honestly.

"I am affronted," I muttered when we got back into the car.

"What's affronted?" Elizabeth asked.

"It's when--" I stopped abruptly.  A three-year-old who started saying "I am affronted" would definitely be judged eccentric.  I had to start being more careful.  So, I thought, this is what people mean when they advise young parents to watch their language around their babies and young children.

"I know, let's sing 'Old McDonald,'" I said, and launched right in: "Old MacDonald had a farm . . . ."

"What's affronted?"

"EE I EE I O!" I shouted.

"What's affronted?!" she demanded.

"ICE CREAM!" I shouted. "Let's go home and eat ICE CREAM!"

So we did. I thought I'd won, but as soon as supper was over that evening and I was busy cleaning the table, Elizabeth asked that awful man her father what "affronted" means, and he told her. Some people have no parenting skills whatsoever.

After that I heard her say "I am affronted" to the eight-year-old boy across the hall on a few occasions but not, as far as I know, to any adults, and since the boy didn't understand, he just ignored her, she gave it up, and then in the way of very small children she apparently forgot all about it.

My daughter grew up hearing the "amphibian" story many, many times, but in the interest of not re-teaching a child to say "I am affronted," I don't think I ever told her that part of the story. Now it has occurred to me that since we're approaching her 27th birthday, it's all right. So happy birthday, my love, and please be affronted to your heart's content.

affronted: (like "offended" merged with "confronted")  when someone goes out of their way to speak (or let you know that they think) harsh things about you and/or your three-year-old. (Posting a story about someone online for public viewing could possibly be interpreted as an affront, but I think it shouldn't if the story is harmless, the intentions are loving, and person it's about is extraordinarily understanding, kind, peaceful, generous, fair, open-minded, wise, forgiving, compassionate, thoughtful, beautiful, insightful . . . . )

1 comment:

  1. Happy Birthday Elizabeth! May you enjoy many more birthdays in spite of being the child of a mom who would resort to claiming you were both adopted in order to avoid embarrassment. LOL


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