Wednesday, March 19, 2008

zoo dreams and missed chances

The other morning, we were all in the kitchen, my husband making another pot of coffee, me trying to clean up a little, while Little Man sat at the kitchen table (wearing his usual breakfast garb: nothing but a huge navy blue Reed College sweatshirt covering his silky nakedness), eating his oatmeal mixed with blueberries and maple syrup. He likes to be naked, this boy ("No, I want to be naked boy!" he says whenever I offer him pajamas at bedtime), but in the morning the kitchen can be chilly, so once I slipped my own sweatshirt over his head, which made him laugh and laugh, it was so big. Slipping down over his small shoulders, like an off-the-shoulder evening gown (albeit of worn, navy-blue cotton) and ballooning over his seated form, making him look like a cotton-clad, fat sitting Buddha. His arms and hands disppear into it; in order to do anything (play with the plastic motorcycle on the table, eat his oatmeal), he must either thrust his tiny arms into the long, long sleeves, or (his preferred option) shimmying the neck-hole down to his waist, turning his evening gown into a skirt. Now it's his everymorning attire, a kind of signal to the world that he is now awake and eating breakfast and readying himself for the day ahead.

Anyway, there may have been some stress in the room (although I admit nothing). Work stress, get-the-kid-to-school stress, what-have-you. Neither of us adults paying much attention to the magic of childhood. Note: every parent has stories like this one: my little brother (little, ha, all 6'2" of him) was once, at some ungodly hour of the morning, carrying his toddler out to the car to be dropped off at her grandparents' house on the way to work, all in a rush, when she said "Look Daddy, what a beautiful day!" He tells this story with appropriate ruefulness, his expression clearly saying, Why do we need our kids to tell us this -- and yet, thank god we have them! And Little Man, this early morning, stopped eating his oatmeal long enough to say ... to say ... what?

Well, that's the problem. I didn't write it down. And when you're hear a kid's magical statement, you have to write it down, immediately, before you've washed another dish or even dried your hands. Write it in soap, etch it on your skin, scrawl it on the back of your husband's T-shirt. Because I know what he said, but not verbatim. And that's the problem. Verbatim is not just part of the point, it is the point. It get it across. What he said was something to the effect of, I love everything in the world. (Which, if you knew my cynical and black-humored husband, and my sarcastic self, would make you raise your eyebrows and say, From whom did you apparently kidnap this child of "yours"?)

But it wasn't quite that. It was . . . more kid-like, more charming, more like a person who is still feeling his way around his native language. Which increases the charm and also the profundity. As I was mentioning in my literature class this morning, quoting some outdated critic or other, "paraphrase is heresy." Which I don't really believe when it comes to literature, but when it comes to children's speech, I most emphatically do. So I hate myself for not writing it down. I wake up at 3:00 a.m., berating myself for not writing it down -- this, and a thousand other things that have flown out of his mouth like little irridescent birds.

But I try to stop myself. Another lesson I try to teach myself: don't get stuck on any one thing. Start carrying around a little pad of paper with a pen on a string, but don't get stuck on the last one. And this lesson I learned at the zoo . . . but that is another post, for another day.


Anonymous said...

As a preschool teacher, I would scribble something remarkable about each child each day and slip it into a folder. When conferences came around, I would transcribe.

It only took a second, since I was going to work on the finished project later.

Scraps of paper thrown in a drawer turn into a lifetime of un-missed moments.

Fun writing here, I'm enjoying your work.

daydreamymama said...

Thanks! and good idea. I did finally put a pad of paper on the counter with a pen, so I could immediately scribble things down.
Thanks for reading!