As I explain in this post about my freak dancing accident, and in this post about my bursitis diagnosis, I've been in pain lately. That's one reason–actually two reasons--I didn't post anything here yesterday: sitting was uncomfortable, and then I ended up spending several hours seeing a doctor and having x-rays and working with a physical therapist. The other reason I didn't post yesterday is that I had a dinner invitation that took precedence over writing.
My hosts were a colleague, her husband and their three-year-old son, who is really damn cute: big smile, bright brown eyes and this head full of tousled curls because his mom has been two busy to cut his hair recently. I sat down next to him at the dinner table, remembered what I'd posted Monday, and asked myself, "All right; do I like kids or not?"
And I decided I really do, if the parents allow both me and the kid to treat each other like people.
I asked the kid how old he was, what his name was--basic ice breakers, to which he gave me basic answers. His dad said, "We forgot your knife," and went to the kitchen. And the kid said to me, "I have a blue knife."
"That's pretty cool. I don't have a blue knife," I said, picking up the knife beside my plate. "All my knives are the same color as this one. I used to have a red knife, but the people at the airport took it away from me." (All through grad school I hauled a swiss army knife on my key chain, in part because I got tired of trying to track down a bottle opener at parties.)
It turned out that not only was his knife blue, but it was shaped like a shark; his spoon was a green snake. We were able to have a very rewarding conversation about cutlery in general. I got him to sing me the ABC song. And his parents didn't interrupt him or me. They didn't insist that I interact with him the way they interact with him. They DID tell him not to jump on me, because I'd hurt myself recently; they did reprove him in the one thing that mattered so that I didn't have to do it.
And then his dad gave him a bath and he went to bed. Except that several hours later, he came downstairs and wanted to stay downstairs, and was not compliant when his dad told him to go back to bed. Calling upon my experience as a doting aunt, I said, "You know what I just realized? I just realized you haven't shown me your room. Can I see it?"
I know parents who at that moment would have intervened, would have said, "No, we'll get the kid upstairs"-- I guess because they don't want anyone else exercising authority over their child? But the kid accepted that I might really have an interest in his room, and he was certainly interested in showing it to me, so we all walked upstairs, and once the child was in his bed, his dad picked out a story to read him, and after that he went to sleep.
And I really enjoyed the whole evening. I liked the kid, I liked the way he was a part but not the entire focus of the evening, and I liked that his parents let me and the kid interact on our own terms, which included exercising a little grownup authority and sneakiness on my part.