After we get you up to speed on my peanuts, I'm hoping to post on a more frequent basis. No guarantees, but just know that I'm trying.
My parents had a small statue of Rodin’s Le Penseur in the house when I was growing up. I never gave it much attention until an art history class in college made me realize what it was. Anyway, I failed to give it further thought (no pun intended) until recently while observing Miss Greta Jane.
While she seems to be flourishing in school (she loves reading, writing, and art in particular,) the “thinker” side of Greta that I love is not necessarily related solely to academics. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so proud that learning is fun for her and seems to be going well. But there is another side to Greta’s pensive nature that I appreciate even more.
Analysis. Greta can sit and mull over a topic, digesting it. Marinating it. Without any urgency. It might be a few minutes, or it might be a few days. Once the thought has fermented, she volunteers an opinion that is insightful, thoughtful, and smart. I would smile and laugh out of love but that doesn’t go over very well. (More on that below.) In any event, her knack for reflection makes me excited for the potential depths of our future conversations to come. I just marvel at how her brain works.
For example, a few weeks back I decided to try out a church in town. I brought her along for the ride. We both hated it. But at least we tried. Anyways, while we were driving she asked me some questions about God. I was super stoked already because these are the kinds of parent-child conversations that get my juices flowing. So we’re going back and forth until we encounter a pause. A moment or two later, G suddenly pipes up. “So God is kinda like Santa Claus?” I wanted to jam on the brakes and hug her, I was so proud.
Second, and probably even more important, Greta has a keen sense of vibe. Reading people or even a room. Actually, let me rephrase on the people part. She doesn’t trust adults implicitly. With kids, she seems to want to play with anyone near her age. Great kids. Bratty kids. Nice kids. Shy kids. Grumpy kids. Doesn’t really matter. (I suppose that’s fine for now, but come high school, I obviously hope she stays away from d-bags and riff raff.) But as for adults, you need to earn her comfort level first. If you give her bad juju, Greta keeps you at an arm’s length. If she feels the love, you know it. She will seek your engagement in a conversation or game or art project or impromptu dance performance, etc.
As for a room’s vibe, our recent trip to Edaville is illustrative. We had recently discussed the issue of not talking to strangers because of a failed abduction in our town. We were taking a break in a cafeteria. Two older guys were sitting next to us without any kids. I didn’t take much notice of them. Eventually, they left. Greta mentioned how the guys seemed suspicious to her. When I asked why, she said something like “well, two people tried to steal a kid in Easton and those were two guys at a kid park without any kids.” Again, her brain just blows me away.
On the flip side - and I don’t mean this as an insult - she is very sensitive. Very reminiscent of her mother. And perhaps a bit of her father too. Sensitivity can be a wonderful strength. But it can also be a cruel weakness. And this is where I start to live in fear of Greta’s transition from young child to elementary school kid.
Here’s what I mean. When we sit at the dinner table talking about her day, we spend very little time on ABCs or arithmetic. Instead, the focus is almost exclusively on how a girl didn’t want to sit next to her on the bus, or how another girl ignored her at recess, or how someone wasn’t filling her bucket. She cried at dinner a few weeks ago because her name was mentioned on the announcements but none of her friends mentioned it to her during the day. (I swear I’ve eavesdropped on some version of this same conversation during one of THE WIFE’s telephone chats with a girlfriend.)
When these anecdotes first arose, my instinct was to say “Oh that’s too bad” and move on. But THE WIFE - to her credit - will instantly go into therapist mode and engage in a half-hour long exercise discussing how the experience made Gigi feel. That’s where I tune out Spaceman Spiff-style and go into Homer Simpson/singing songs inside my head mode while everyone talks.
These new scenarios scare the shit out of me because: 1) Greta has a problem; 2) it pains me to see my beautiful child unhappy or sad; 3) I am only good at proposing solutions to problems; 4) I have about a 20-second tolerance for listening to someone express their feelings about a problem rather than focusing on a solution; 5) my proposed solution in this case is “ignore her and you will find that she comes around later”; and 6) Greta hates my proposed solution. Therefore, I am useless. AND WE’RE ONLY TALKING ABOUT FIRST GRADE!
What kind of complex problem will Greta disclose when she is 13 years old? What about 17 years old? I don’t even know how to operate Snapchat. I’ve never seen Tinder. I still have a hotmail e-mail address for Christ’s sake. I’m already feeling unqualified to maintain dad credentials.
The other day Greta told me she was looking for her “fuggs.” I said “What are fuggs?” She said, “Fake uggs.” How the hell does she know what real uggs are or not? Fortunately, she seemed fine with the knockoffs but what happens when only the name brands will do? Not to mention the need to get a third job at that point, the prospect of a future “Mean Girls” situation involving clothes or body image makes me cringe even more.
Pause. Deep breath. Smell the roses. Chill. Relax. Okay. Namaste.
I’m treasuring how when Greta walks through the house, she can’t go more than 20 feet without practicing a cartwheel or a dancing twirl or the move when she puts both arms on a surface, leans forward, and kicks her legs behind her. She sings without self-consciousness. Hell, she still feels comfortable enough to walk around the house naked in front of her family. That reminds me she is still a little girl. But the transition to bigger kid is already upon us. And I really am so excited to be along for her ride. Even if I have to ask her to explain how Uber works.
At least going out for ice cream still works as a plan B to make her feel better. I have to enjoy that as a solution while it still lasts!