Sunday, February 03, 2008

"Your Kid is a Freak"

Not counting when we've had someone watch her so we could go to a wedding or Bar Mitzvah, I think last night was the fourth time Kathy and I have left Emelia with someone and gone out, just the two of us. Like the other three times, last night involved nothing more adventuresome than going to dinner and then returning. Oddly enough, each time has involved someone different watching her, and this time it was our friend Bryce's turn. Bryce loves kids, and she has none of her own. She keeps threatening to teach Emelia all the things we'd never want her to learn, which, given that both Kathy and I are oldest children who were ridiculously conformist growing up, is probably a good thing.

We went to Georgetown, a part of town we almost never frequent, as it's filled with tourists, college students, shops, bars, traffic jams, and it's a good walk from the nearest Metro. There are some good restaurants there, however, and we decided to try a seafood place several people had recommended. It was a bit noisier than we might have wanted, but we could still hear each other fine. The food was great and we ate far too much, but the service enabled us to dine in a leisurely manner, something we do all too infrequently these days. Our conversation over dinner was substantive, serious even, but refreshing all the same. Far too often these days we find ourselves reacting to circumstances, causing friction with and defensiveness from the other. Last night had none of that, and maybe that's what made it so enjoyable. Most evenings after Emelia goes to sleep, Kathy and I have a couple of hours to ourselves to talk about anything, but we rarely do. It seems strange that we have to go out to do what we could do any other night, but given that in the evenings we feel more in need of down time than serious conversation, maybe it isn't so strange after all.

We got home a little over three hours after we left (the longest of our four dinners out). The first words from Bryce when she saw us were, "Your kid is a freak!" Long pause. "In a good way." Bryce explained how after we left, E didn't get all upset. Then Bryce read to E, they played together, and E had a little bit of food. Then E said, "Night night," and Bryce followed Kathy's directions by preparing a bottle, then reading her a story as E drank the bottle. When E finished the bottle, Bryce stood up with her, said "Night night I love you," and put Emelia down. Emelia went right to sleep. In her experience with children (that includes nannying and lots of babysitting), bedtime was something kids avoided, not asked for, and she'd never had a kid that didn't fuss at least a little bit. Of course, Emelia fusses a little bit some evenings (and frequently for naps), but what Bryce experienced isn't uncommon for us (in fact, I'm writing some of this while E's napping -- she said "night night" at 8:15am, and was in bed shortly thereafter without a fuss).

At the same time, we hadn't thought much of it, simply because we don't have anyone to compare Emelia with -- we don't have any other children, or a great deal of experience with small children. In some ways, not thinking about Emelia as compared to other kids is the norm for us -- we haven't done a lot of reading about stages or expected experiences, so we take everything as "normal." I mean, we think she's amazing, but I generally chalk that up to being her parent. As far as our interactions with her, we don't hold a lot of preconceived notions about how she should be -- as long as she seems to be growing and developing, we don't sweat the details. Whether that's bad or good, I can't honestly say, but it does create these moments when someone on "the outside" finds something remarkable in what for us is the ordinary.

"I'm a Freak?"