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On the subject of children
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This evening I decided to actually eat dinner in the dining room and read my Newsweek instead of sit in front of the TV. So of course, this is the moment the two little girls in the house on the east discover that they can observe our kitchen and dining room through their bathroom window. We only have lacy curtains in the dining room -- and none at all in the kitchen --but you don't really expect a bathroom window to yield a lot of peeping Toms (or Teresas in this case). In fact, I felt sort of bad for our neighbors, having their bathroom window (which has a thick curtain but isn't frosted, like ours) so easily visible from our dining room.

Anyway, I wasn't really paying attention at first, so I didn't realize the giggles I was hearing actually had something to do with me. Then I looked up, and made eye contact, which of course caused much shrieking and more laughter ("she SAW us!"). At this point the girls decided I could hear them and started trying to get my attention by yelling "Hello" in increasingly louder and more insistent voices. But at this point I was finished with my dinner and my magazine, so after amusing them a little more by going back and forth between the kitchen and dining room while cleaning up, and going downstairs to get the mail, I retired to the west side of the apartment, where I could work without observation.

The whole incident underscored the rather ambivalent attitude I have about small children (meaning under 12, mostly). I don't hate children -- I used to be an assistant dance teacher in high school, for kids from age 4 to 9th grade, and I've done my share of babysitting, too, and enjoyed it for the most part. Being around the younger kids of family friends and relatives has also never bothered me. But I'm not like, say, my friend Susan, who would have not only waved and said "Hello," back to the girls, but might have had an entire conversation with them (if they didn't run off shrieking with laughter at getting a response). I don't see a cute kid at the store or the laundromat (where there were actually some cute kids today -- a boy of about 6 entertaining his 2 or 3 year old sister quite sweetly) and feel anything but a momentary flash of "cute kid" before I'm back to thinking about whatever it was I was thinking about before (in the laundromat today it was my knitting pattern). By contrast Susan and Laura used to talk about the "maternal impulse" they'd feel whenever there would be kids eating in the college cafeteria, and both have very close relationships to young children that aren't related to them. I used to say it was just proof that I wasn't ready to have kids, but now I'm not so sure. It still may be partly that, but I think it's also that I react to strange children in much the same way I react to strange adults -- I observe but don't really interact. And maybe it's also the remnants of my extreme dislike of those adults who would direct inane, gushing, expressions of interest in my direction when I was a child ("and how old are you, cutie?"). A horrible experience for a child as painfully shy as I was, and one which early on taught me to despise small talk -- which is why I'm really inept at this basic social skill now.


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