We spent most of Sunday with two children. Not even the whole day. Both children were relatively well-behaved. We didn’t have to deal with any kiddie insanity or meltdowns, just run of the mill annoyances and the constant awareness expected from any parent. Even this was too much. As Jenn, Penelope, and I drove home that afternoon all I could think was “how peaceful this is”.
Again I stress, Penelope and Charlie were great. At the Atlanta Botanical Gardens we told both children to “come on”, “we’re going”, and “not that way” so much an observer may have thought those were the only phrases we knew. When we walked through the parking lot of Trader Joe’s we told Penelope and Charlie to hold our hands and not pull away.
But I witnessed the most interesting bit of mischievousness.
Jenn stood in line at Chipotle while I sat with Penelope and Charlie. Charlie had a packed lunch and didn’t want to waste it. He unzipped his stegosaurus lunch box and pondered what to eat first. Penelope, with no distraction or lunch of her own, stared at Charlie and his food. She leaned in close, not saying a word, as if her presence would convey a sense of need. Charlie wanted none of it. “Stop looking! I don’t want you looking at my food!” he said. Penelope persisted, her stare fixed while she crept closer to Charlie. Charlie increased the volume and said “STOP LOOKING!”, as if every eye in the place was fixed on his peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I wasn’t really sure what to say. Penelope wasn’t bothering Charlie, at least not in the traditional way. Yet Charlie had a point. I wouldn’t want someone eyeing me and my food while eating. I put Penelope on one side and Charlie on the other, praying Jenn would show up with our tray. Penelope was undaunted. She started to crawl over me to get close to Charlie. “STOP IT!” he said.
I do not like being the center of attention, especially the socially awkward-children-screaming-my-god-does-that-guy-have any-idea-how-to-control-his-children kind. Yet I didn’t want the interplay to stop because I was getting a glimpse of my daughter I’d never seen. Why, this was exactly the kind of thing I might have done when I was her age! A part of me was enjoying the spectacle. Not because I’m ok with her taunting anyone, but because it displayed a certain intelligence and power.
It was time for me to put on my parenting hat and put an end to the exchange. “Charlie, the more you tell her to stop the more she’s looking at you. Just don’t say anything. Penelope, if you get up from your spot one more time you’ll be sitting in the corner.” (Yeah, that one still works.) And then it was over. Charlie ate his lunch. A few minutes later Jenn arrived with our food.
I’m not convinced I’m cut out for these types of interactions every day. Jenn feels the same.
When all we had was a parental desire, I said two. It just seemed right to have two children.
Now I’m thinking just one. This one.