It may be a long summer. Actually, the weather here on the prairie has been gorgeous, the first time in years that we haven't had to turn on the air conditioner yet. But, I seem to be missing my daughter lately and my partner nearly got us smacked at the grocery store tonight.
Let me start with Liv. She is eight, nearly nine. She has always been a very easy-to-get-along-with child. I seldom have to scold her and she makes me laugh daily.
I noticed around Christmas, though, that she was starting to get...well....picky. We have read all the Beverly Cleary books starring Ramona, so I nicknamed her after their cat: Picky Picky.
Liv has become a germ phobic. I have no idea what it stems from, I do know that around the age of nine or ten, that it is normal for children to develop their own idiosyncrasies. But, she seemed a little extreme for my taste.
She suddenly would glare accusingly at me when I set an apple in front of her for a treat.
Did you remember to wash this?
I would assure her that, yes, I did. She would look doubtfully at me as if I were trying to slip a dirty apple into her digestive system.
The little girl who could care less about what she wore suddenly turned into some sort of clothes guru. She refused to wear dresses or anything with lace of any kind. She began checking labels to make sure that everything was 100% cotton and asked me if we could start buying only organic clothing. I told her that if she wanted to buy her own clothes, that was fine and dandy with me. But, boy howdy, if not, she was just going to have to trust that I would not dress her in pesticide laced material.
I once caught her soaking her pig bank coins in the bathroom sink.
Think about how many people have touched this money! Someone with the flu might have touched it!
This is her birthday wish list verbatim:
1) A new skate board (something cool that I pick out, but you can drive me to the store.)
2) A Wii (and games to play on it.)
3) Hemp sheets for my bed.
4) A bracelet made from recycled bicycle chains (Miss Perry has one if you need to see what they look like.) No kidding? I bet Miss Perry has hemp sheets and clothes too. I wasn't born yesterday, missy.
I told her that if she got a wii, she would get nothing else because they were costly. She agreed.
But, how many kids ask for hemp sheets?
I'm not panicking. She isn't washing her hands obsessively or insisting on four baths a day. But...her picky picky attitude is annoying.
This is the same child who used to run barefoot out into the dirt of the back yard garden and pick tomatoes straight off the vine and eat them for breakfast without washing them first. Now,as she washed an apricot the other day, she looked up at me and said, "Do you think we should buy some of that vegetable and fruit wash that you see in the grocery store, just to be safe?"
I told her no. That kitchen sink water was FINE. Again with the look. As if she is not altogether sure that I won't sneak some bug poop on her apricots when she isn't looking.
Today, Liv and I were baking Apple Brown Betty (stop snickering...I can bake a FEW things without burning down the house) for our neighbor, Sven, who comes home for the summer tomorrow. I was slicing apples and handed Liv a measuring cup to measure out brown sugar and flour. She peered into the cup and proclaimed it "dirty." I looked at it. It is a silver cup and it had a few dishwasher spots on it. I told Liv that it was perfectly fine. She went to the sink anyway and carefully ran it under hot water and then dried and polished it with a tea towel. She looked over at me.
Did you wash your hands before you cut those apples?
"No," I told her. "I did pick my nose, but just a little bit. Boogers never killed anyone, Livvie."
She looked at me in horror for a few seconds until she realized that I was joking.
I suspect that she will keep me in line this summer.....
And then tonight, my nearly perfect partner, Bing, almost got us in a knock-down-drag-out in the grocery store. Bing, Liv and I were all doing our Friday night grocery shopping. We were in the produce aisle where Bing was selecting avocados while Liv and I picked out some apples (pink ladies are the best...)
There was a sloppy, tired looking very young mother in the same aisle. Her two toddler boys had gotten a hold of some tongs and were chasing each other around with them. One, in true brat fashion, actually pinched an elderly woman in the rear with them. His mother, chomping gum and talking to someone on a cell phone, was ignoring them.
Bing sprang to action. She whipped the tongs away from the child and scolded him, telling him that he could hurt someone and that it was not nice to pinch people with them.
His mother was off the phone in two seconds flat and came over and snatched the tongs right back from Bing and returned them to her son.
"You keep your fuckin' hands off my kid, you hear me?" she said to Bing.
Bing glared at her. Told her that her child had pinched an elderly woman (who had long scurried away) with them and that she needed to get off the phone and start parenting her child.
The child referred to was now laughing and squeezing bananas until they popped open. People were staring, but it was clear that no one wanted to take this woman on. I looked around for store personnel but couldn't see anyone.
The woman, who was not one bit afraid to get up into Bing's face, came up to her and thrust a her jaw right at her.
"Like I am going to let an ugly faggot tell me what to do?" she countered.
Bing didn't answer her. I saw a lost cause, told Bing to let it go and went to go find a manager, taking Liv with me. I saw one hurrying over up the aisle. Someone else had found him. He stepped up to the woman and asked her to please either give him the tongs or put them in her cart if she wanted to purchase them. He also told her that her child had ruined several bunches of bananas and that she would need to purchase those too.
She snatched the tongs away from her child and threw them in a bin of potatoes.
"There you go," she said. She was sneering and I realized as I watched her that I had never actually seen someone sneer quite so convincingly.
"And I WILL NOT buy those bananas," she went on. "We don't eat bananas and my child did not do anything to them."
Liv stood staring, her mouth open. There was a grown up, lying her head off.
I steered us away from her and left her to the manager. We paid for our groceries and went out to the car. Halfway there, the woman from the store literally jumped out at us from behind a car and said in a loud voice, "Faggots! Dirty fags!"
I saw Bing tense. I knew she wanted to go shove the woman's cell phone up her ass. I reminded her that Liv was with us, to let it go.
We got into our car while the woman stood looking triumphant, as if she had won some sort of victory over us.
On the way home, I thought about how to talk about this with Liv. Figured that we would discuss it when I was putting her to bed. I didn't have to wait, though. About halfway home, Liv said, "Why did that woman call us faggots? Isn't that a naughty word for a boy who is gay?"
I told her that she was just ignorant. And angry. And that those two things together were a very bad combination. Liv nodded, didn't push it.
I don't know, maybe we should have fought back, at least stood up for ourselves. I know that Bing wanted to do just that. But, I dunno....the look on her face....
She didn't look like someone who could be reasoned with. She looked like an ignorant woman who had been having a very long day with her bratty children and was looking for someone to take it out on. I don't think holding our ground would have been worth it.
Sometimes you have to teach your children to walk away.
Later, Bing and I talked. We agreed that we had handled it in the best way possible. I told her that instead of taking the tongs away from the child, she probably should have just found the store manager. She disagreed. She felt that it was important to show Liv that adults need to step in when matters go too far.
I guess I agree, sort of. It is a tough situation. Correcting other people's children is always very risky, I think, in this day and age.
What do you think? And if you have kids, were they germ phobics at eight years old? What were their quirks?