Monday, December 29, 2008

Other

I'm noticing, lately, how my children are not me.

Pie, for instance, was showing my mother her fingers the other day. "You've got four fingers!" my mother enthused, "And a thumb!"

"Yes," Pie replied solemnly, "but one of them hurts."

Her finger hurts, a private soreness that she experiences without my awareness of it - a part of her subjective experience (however minor) from which I am excluded.

Perhaps it's the Christmas holidays. During the school year, my children head off bravely each morning to face the day on their own, Bub glowering resentfully, Pie gliding zombie-like towards the terrifying groups of playing children at her day-care. I realize, usually, that my children are not me.

For these couple of weeks, however, we return to something like our old symbiotic connection, spending the days holed up at home while snowmageddon rages outside. I keep mental track throughout the day of how long it has been since Pie peed on the potty; I notice when Bub does the dance that means he needs to be nudged in that direction. But all along they are thinking their private thoughts, living in a world of which I am only tangentially aware.

Yesterday we went to a birthday party. This was not a party for the faint of heart: it included upwards of fifteen children aged five and under, all gathered at a conservation area which featured a birds of prey exhibit and a play barn full of horses and sheep. A guide led us from place to place, stopping the children periodically to quiz them on trivia questions like "What does a chicken say?" and "What is a baby duck called?"

Bub was mostly oblivious to these questions, scampering around the barn while the other children clucked obediently. The one exception to this pattern occurred during the birds of prey show. The children sat on a series of risers as the guide showed them a Great Horned owl. "What do you think this owl would like to eat?" she asked. Chicken, someone suggested, with surprising accuracy. "Yes," the guide answered, "this bird does like to eat chicken. Is there anything else it might eat besides chicken?"

There was a short pause, and then Bub's voice rang out. "Frosted Flakes!"

Bub does not even eat Frosted Flakes. What would make him so confident of this strange answer that he would belt it out in that setting? "I think he knew he was saying something funny," hubby suggested to me afterwards. "He had quite a smirk on his face."

As we drove home later that night, Pie slept in the back seat while hubby and I analyzed the day in the front. Suddenly we heard Bub chuckling to himself. I turned around to see him grinning widely. "I said the owl would eat Frosted Flakes!" he muttered, chuckling again, his private joke like a tiny window into an inner conversation from which I am still mostly excluded.

17 comments:

Kelly said...

Separating from our children is a sad and beautiful process.

Veronica Mitchell said...

I still laugh at my own jokes too. Clever boy.

Omaha Mama said...

I know exactly what you mean, and how much it hurts sometimes. I couldn't put it into words so well though. You said it just right.

minnesotamom said...

"I am the funniest person I know," I always say to my husband. "Because I get ALL of my jokes."

slouching mom said...

That is a lesson I've had to learn repeatedly. It doesn't seem to stick. But it's so important. God, is it ever important.

(Especially as my elder hits the tween years...)

wheelsonthebus said...

at least his little world has humor in it :)

Mimi said...

I've begun asking Munchkin, lately, what she's thinking about--she's developed this habit (like me) of sitting quite still and staring off, brow furrowed, into the middle distance. Her answers (and she's always ready with answers) surprise me: pulling the cat's tail, playing with her new doll house, eating a grilled cheese sandwich. There's stuff going on in there. Weird.

Beck said...

I remember being stricken by the very IDEA that someday my kids minds would be this total secret to me, but so far I can still read them like water. A quiet and secret people we are not.

Mad said...

A few weeks ago Miss M became solemn after dinner for no apparent reason. Suddenly she said, "I have the bad thinking." We asked if we could cheer her up and she said, "No, sometimes you just have to wait for the bad thinking to go away by itself."

I was flattened. Yes, their minds are their own and we get only glimpses after a while.

HarryJack's Mom said...

Oh, so well said - I've been dealing with this a lot at our house lately. As Kelly said, sad and beautiful and awesome. Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

I forgot that moment! LOL :)

TTYL,
MLD

Bea said...

Mad - I had the bad thinking myself a couple of weeks ago. Ugh.

Kyla said...

It is so strange to think that they have whole worlds inside their little minds, worlds we only have an occasional peek into.

Anon said...

Love your son's healthy sense of irony at such a young age. He is a creative person.

I always loved and still do love seeing my (now grown) children separating from us; it is healthy to have an inner life that is yours personally.

(Your) Anon

Kelly said...

I love when they start to truly develop a sense of humor. Not just potty jokes, not just loud noises and silly faces, but something unexpected and delightful.

Magpie said...

That is utterly charming.

kittenpie said...

I love it when they show their sense of humour!