Every so often I’m surprised by the fact that I have three kids. While wiping down the kitchen table or adhering a band aid, I’ll occasionally take a good look at one of the girls, suck in my breath, and think, Where did you come from, child? I’ve grown so accustomed to their noises, their messes, and their company that I forget that they once weren’t here. Their absence would be striking, but their presence is so familiar that it’s easy to take for granted.
This is why I like moments of being wholly attuned, moments that astound me with a fresh look at a child, moments that allow me to mutter a genuinely flabbergasted, “Well, I’ll be…”
Such a moment came last week when Reese discovered Silly Bandz. It was love at first awkwardly-contoured, amorphous outline of (what we think is) a leprechaun. For those of you not familiar with Silly Bandz, they are bracelets that, once taken off your wrist, can be shaped into various objects: cars, fruit, letters, pets, farm animals, sea animals, zoo animals, safari animals, or in the case of Reese’s first purchase, princesses.
Reese wore hers to the park that afternoon. I watched as she met another girl (slightly older) with a wristful of bands. They immediately climbed to the top of the play set and carefully laid out their bands for display.
I hung back and listened as the girls huddled. Reese never had traded before, and she clearly lacked the bartering skills that would have been useful when a six-year old is working the system to score a flower, a crown, a magic wand, and a princess shoe in exchange for a measly bear.
Still, minutes later Reese came down the slide beaming, “Mommy, I got a bear! That girl gave me a bear!”
I treasured that moment. Reese, my little girl, was old enough to embrace her first fad – much like I once had been caught up in the whirl of jelly shoes and slap bracelets – yet she was still young enough to be entirely uncalculating. By her next trade she already was savvier, trading at a slightly more promising two-for-one ratio. Now she’s a pro.
Clearly, I don’t want my children to remain naïve, but in that moment I could see Reese exactly for who she was: a girl who was growing up, simultaneously young and old enough to make me suck in my breath and question, Truly, where did you come from, child?
Now if only that same clarity could be transferred so I could see this Silly Bandz for what it actually is… (a misshapen pineapple? a sideways and painfully inaccurate map of the United States?)