I spent a good portion of Saturday afternoon sitting in the bleachers, high above a swimming pool in which my nine year-old was competing. Most of the time I was a point of interest for a four year-old, whose mother was trying to keep her amused with one electronic device or another while trying to ensure that the devices did not end up broken because the little girl dropped them repeatedly. They were watching the other daughter/older sister–an eight year-old/third grader–swim in her first meet of the season.
The mother and I started talking about how our first-rate third-grade daughters enjoyed swimming. It turned out that her daughter was a good friend (from ballet classes) of one of my daughter’s close friends/classmate. “What a small world,” she said to me. Yes, in a sense.
As the afternoon wore on–and it did, as delays occurred–the four-year old got friendlier with me. She did not want to offer her crackers to me at first, then relented. I thanked her and told her to save one for me: she wrapped the package very tightly. She wanted to show me some pictures she had taken while at the pool. She then wanted to show me pictures her mother had taken; I demurred, in case I saw something I should not have. Her mother reassured me that there were no embarrassing pictures lurking on her phone. “Even so, it’s better if I don’t encourage her to share your photos,” I said. When her mother got a phone call, the little girl asked to sit on my lap to be able to see the pool better. Her mother told her not to be so forward. I was happy to be a chair, if the mother was comfortable: she was, and up jumped Missie, just for a minute. I’m not sure if she was really just testing my knees for comfort. Whatever, her reasons, she’d found a comfort level, and with her mother just alongside, seemed happy to engage with this new person.
No one is under an obligation to be anyone’s friend. Not everyone wants to be involved happily with other people’s children–either those within a family or those who are complete strangers. I just read a story about an airline passenger who allegedly slapped a young child who was crying on a plane. Children are often very good at choosing those with whom they want to engage, and are sometimes not into many social niceties 🙂
When I told ‘And me, of course’ about my time with the little girl, she was a typical child about it. “What did she look like? What colour was her hair? What was she wearing?” she asked, and questions in that vein. When I mentioned the coincidence of the shared friend, she got a bit excited, and wanted to know in which event the older sister had been swimming. I told her that the girls would have a chance to meet over the next weekend, when they are both due to swim at the same venue. Curiosity seemed satisfied, for the moment.