Wednesday, June 28, 2017


I am a mother of two daughters and a grandmother to a little girl. It seems I've watched babies grow into little, then big girls a lot. But of course, even if you bring up just girls, your world is full of little boys too. Playground, classroom, sports field, band in school, library after school. Girls and boys, boys and girls.

I know that there's great harm in making generalizations about gender (or about any group of individuals), but still, I think I'm safe in saying this much: when a little boy bosses a little girl around, especially a girl under my charge, I bristle.

To be absolutely clear -- I don't think that all boys are bossy. Snowdrop's best school buddies appear to be boys and I've never heard her complain about them pushing or hitting her, or belittling her in some fashion. Well, at least not the two whom she most readily gives the label of "friend."

But the point is that there are at least a few who do boss and belittle and I feel my jaw clamping down when it happens, not because of that particular incident, but because I know that this is something Snowdrop (and before her -- her mom and her aunt) will have to learn to deal with on a fairly regular basis.

Let me go back to the start of the day -- a gloomy, brooding kind of day, with threats of bad weather, a cold undertone and sporadic bursts of rain.

Still, Ed and I eat breakfast on the porch, perhaps because that is the place we linger longest, often in silence until one of us raises a topic and we toss it around a little, like a ping pong ball, nothing more, before growing quiet again.

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One photo from a wet garden.

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It's at a standstill right now, as if waiting for real summer.

And then I pick up Snowdrop. She asks to go for an adventure, but I tell her it will have to be a drive-to adventure because the weather is just too uncooperative. Right away she suggests the library.

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It's not a calm place today. For every child engaged in quiet play there are five jumping, tumbling, throwing toys around -- honestly, I want to roll back the time to the days when you actually had to be reasonably quiet in a library. Did we decide somewhere along the way that it is too repressive to ask a child to tone it down? At the pool, the lifeguards still tell the children to quit running, why isn't the librarian empowered to tell the kids to keep it down to a reasonable roar?

Snowdrop loves keeping an eye out on other kids. She wants to see what they're up to. I'm sure she learns from them. And so predictably, she is less into reading or even playing and more into watching.

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After a while, the crowd thins a little. Phew! What a relief. Or is it?

A little boy, maybe five years old comes out to "help" her play with whatever toy is before her. Oh, I see. He wants to do it for her. She looks at me -- gaga? I move closer. She is reassured and turns back to her toy. And she tells him: I will help you do it!

Good for her! Get herself right on the same playing field! (I had a few suggestions as to where he could take his commands, but I already know how to fight off unwanted instructions. It's her turn to learn.)

He doesn't give up. If she moves to play with something else, he follows, telling her what she can and cannot do. She always considers his unsolicited advice and always rejects it.

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He hovers, really hovers...

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She moves on.

And this does not make him happy. So that when she goes over to work a tray underneath a magnet board and it makes a squeaky noise, he goes right up and tells her that she needs to stop because it's "hurting his ears."

I couldn't take it anymore. I suggested that he move away from her and then his ears would be protected. Snowdrop has had enough as well and we leave the library. She wants to be held. I don't know if it's that she is tired, or if she is worn down by all this. I give her a big squeeze in my arms.
No, Gaga, don't hug me tight, just hold me.

May you always tell people what feels just right for you little one, without intimidation by size, age, gender...

We share a cookie at Paul's Cafe across the street.

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And then we head back to the farmette.

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Palpable sigh of relief -- the calm waters after stormy seas.  She just wants to play with her favorites of the moment: grocery shopping with her baby.

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I want to buy noodles!

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Ed returns from a focus group something or other. Snowdrop and I are reading books on the couch. He hands over a bag of sun-chips that he got for his efforts. Snowdrop asks me -- what's this?
Can I have one?
Sure. Just one.

Can I have another?
Okay, one more.
Then, to myself -- I blame ahah.
She smiles and repeats it -- I blame ahah! And -- can I have one more?
Okay, just one more. I blame ahah.

I blame ahah!

We laugh.

She naps.

After I return Snowdrop home, I pick up her mom and we go out for a drink and a chat. This may seem strange -- I see my girl nearly every day. But the fact is, we rarely talk in sentences that are more than text type exchanges. Getting away from the preoccupations with those around us is a rare treat.

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By the time I am back at the farmette, with a bagful of sushi for dinner, the storms move in. I consider this a stroke of good luck. Tomorrow at this time I should be boarding a flight out of Madison. We would surely be cancelled if the weather would be as it is right now.

Boom! Another clap of thunder! For decades, this would scare me no end, even if I were not in any immediate danger. How long (too long!) before I learned not to let the irrelevant stuff in life get to me? The thunder, the stupid advice, the braggy bossiness -- ignore it and focus on what matters, which for me, is the feeling of calm, of children thriving and flowers growing.