Sunday, October 7, 2007

Swimming upstream

The latest play date victim, Miss M, comes over for a sleepover.

This is the same night at the weekend, when spouse returns to work to deal with a crisis.

I debate whether I might be on the edge of a crisis myself?

I decide that if we are going to have a crisis, I shall defer it until tomorrow morning, when spouse will have returned.

Miss M is a fountain of information. I am unused to girl chat and I am lured in by a nearly nine year old. There are lots of things that she wishes to tell me. I don’t think I am playing the role of confidente, this appears to be more of a full and frank disclosure. It is immediately apparent that I am not in the least bit equipped to deal with the deluge of information that she sees fit to spout. My knowledge of psychology and psychotherapy is still at the psychobabble stage. She is the mistress of psychobabble speak and I have the distinct impression that my eyes are the size of saucers. I feel that I am on dangerous ground, should tread carefully and above all else, keep my mouth shut. I try smiling in what I hope is a sympathetic manner, but it may be a leer?

How does she know such phrases, such terminology? I blink. I am not used to hearing the word retard. I am aghast that this is her description of her brother who has Down’s Syndrome. She takes it all in her stride. I disguise shock with my ‘open and slightly surprised’ face, even though I was already aware of this fact. I wonder if this is the most useful language for her to describe her family circumstances? I suspect, sadly, that in today’s world, this may indeed be an effective shorthand. I do not think I like today’s world and the current status of acceptance. She has merely touched off with the tip of the iceberg.

She regales me with tales of the more colourful moments of her life. I worry that my own daughter might act similarly, with similar motives? No wonder they are such good pals. How comfortable to be able to talk about things freely with people who might have an inkling. I feel distinctly uncomfortable. I’m tempted to issue a cease and desist order, but I know that I would do so for purely selfish reasons. I do not want to hear or know her personal family business. If I could type a transcript of our conversation and deliver a copy to each of her parents, on the principal of full disclosure, I should have peace of mind, well, perhaps a bit. I do not want to meet either of them and have to look them in the eye, knowing what I know about them, without them knowing that I know what I know about them.

I have a sudden irresistible urge to stick my fingers in my ears, squeeze my eyes shut and sing at the top of my voice. Either the child needs a gag order or I need a motor cycle helmet and visor? I realize that my secretive and private nature has been exposed. Her innocence and openness is the exact foil for me, but not an antidote. It has the effect of making me want to sneak even further into my snail shell, blasted by the searing floodlight of her attention. She has unwittingly played her strongest suit to my shortest hand of cards, everyone of them, a deeper shade of yellow.

I want to be brave. I want to tell her to keep these things private, that this ‘heart on your sleeve’ approach, is misinterpreted by the rest of the world. This fuels the fire that all Americans are gauche, as no-one translates Americans very well. All Americans are lumped together because that’s what stereotyping and racial profiling are all about. The rule of thumb is off by several meters, or yards, if you want to be Imperialistic about it.

I’m glad that her dear little soul doesn’t harbour deep, dark and dirty secrets, but some things are private. I can think of no good reason why she should choose to tell me such things, other than perhaps that she might feel at ease. This makes me uneasy. I am not the best of hosts. There is nothing I can think of that I might have done to elicit such full exposure?

I am sorely tempted to wrap her up in cotton wool, neatly secured with tabs of duct tape, but I know that this is because I am an over protective mother. Where is the cut off for the age of innocence? I am faced with a nearly nine year old, with a sunny disposition, unsurpassed openness and knowledge beyond her years, who gives every indication of being ‘well adjusted.’

I think it must be me, who needs the adjustment.


Suzy said...

No, it's not you that needs the adjustment. It's little Miss M.

And retard in only used by ignorant people. I'm sure she is echoing her parents.

I would have stuck my fingers in her eyes.


The Anti-Wife said...

I think it's wonderful that she trusted you enough to talk to you so intimately. It may have been just what she needed. It was hard on you, but it may have been good for her.

Christine said...

If my kids described for you a day in the life I'd probably have to add a lot of caveats. ... Like when my two year old would swear to you that he drinks beer every night. At nine, this may or may not be true, but I would add a grain of salt in there anyway.

dgibbs said...

I agree that it may have been good for her. But I would hope that my daughters never speak of their brother in a derogatory manner. I believe that she must be at "full diclosure age" there was a time not too long ago that I didn't do or say anything unless I wanted EVERYONE to know about it.

Hammer said...

Out of the mouths of babes.. Some kids have no concept of keeping their buisness to themselves.

I find it as distressing as you do.