Her favorite “toy” in the kitchen is the box of garbage bags. She likes the sound it makes when
she pops the cardboard “lid” in and out of the box. Preferences.
One of the most exciting and most humbling parts of being a parent is realizing, usually a little more each day, that this tiny person I’m taking care of isn’t just a baby, she’s another person. A whole, complete person and that means she has a personality and preferences of her own. It’s cool to see and like I said, humbling. I think the earlier parents learn that our kids do and will have their own preferences that may not be the same or even similar to ours, the less hurt and offended and frustrated we’ll be as those preferences and personalities develop and gain mass. Helping these little people do just that is part of the whole idea, after all.
Yesterday the little oyster and I went to Old Town with the little sister. We were heading for the used book store on King St. and the little sister had to stop at the credit union. She dashed inside and the little oyster and I sat down on the edge of a large cement planter in a courtyard. Planted behind us was a colorful tangle of little flowers. Tiny white, pink, and yellow blooms were cuddled up with vibrant greenery, each delicate petal and leaf swaying gently in the light breeze.
I love flowers. I love to look at them and take in the colors and decide which blossom I think is the prettiest and which one is the most tenacious and which one I’d want to live in if I were Thumbelina and there were no such thing as ants. I like watching the wind move things. So I faced the little oyster toward the planter and pointed out the different colors. “Flower, baby girl.” “Yellow.” “Petals.” “Bumble bee.” The oyster watched the flowers quietly until a city bus drove by behind us and she craned her little neck over my shoulder to see what she was missing.
I turned us both around to face the street. As the bus chugged by the little oyster squealed with delight. A tall gentleman walked past wearing sunglasses, a messenger bag over his shoulder. The little oyster waved frantically at him and when he smiled, waved back, and greeted her with a “Hello, little girl!” she applauded. As he went into the building she looked for someone else to “talk” to. An older man dressed in gym shorts and a shirt that didn’t match shuffled by. The oyster waved both hands at him and chirped when he paused to wave both hands at her. A woman on a cell phone–smile and wave–delight on both their faces. Six strangers walked by between the time we turned toward the street and when the little sister came of the credit union. Six strangers in my estimation, six new best friends if we ask the little oyster.
By no means is anyone required to acknowledge my sweet baby when we’re out and about, but she’ll do her best to get you to. When we shop, she leans out of the cart and around displays when she hears people talking so she can see them and wave. She grins, her little eyes squinted up like an anime drawing and all six teeth showing, when someone walks by. Sometimes people see her and greet her and she claps for them. Sometimes they walk by unaware of the beaming little face shooting silent friendship rays at them. I make it a point to look people in the eye and smile at them when we pass, but I don’t seek them out the way the little oyster does. I was grabbing a box of Milk Bones off the shelf at Target the other day when a repetitive motion coming from my cart caught the attention of the only other shopper in the aisle. The oyster was bobbing her head like a turkey, staring down the other dog owner. When the lady smiled at the oyster and told her she was such a happy little baby, the oyster let out an ear-splitting shriek of sheer delight. Hear that, Mom? She likes me! We’re friends! I made another friend!
The little oyster is like her dad in this regard. Less shrieking on his part, but the outgoing, “How about those Nats, where are you from, I’ve been there before, let’s get a drink” is the same. You expect big personality from big people, but a lot of people see babies and figure they’re all the same, they’re all “just babies.” Sure they’re babies, but babies are wee people and their personalities may come in earlier than their teeth. I will be a better mom if I learn early and often that my daughter may prefer to watch traffic and wave at strangers instead of stopping to smell the petunias. That’s fine, the bees were getting too close for comfort anyway.