Our server brought us each a plate of homemade sandwiches and a plate of assorted squares. My daughter didn't really like the sandwiches too much. She reluctantly ate only one square. But she surprised me by drinking the tea, as it wasn't herbal. She added a bit of milk and a pack of sugar and happily slurped it from her spoon. Scoop, slurp. Scoop, slurp.
As she energetically wiggled and teased and giggled and played, I looked around the room of women who were mostly older than myself. They drank their tea and kindly chatted. I wondered what attending a church Spring Tea would have been like for them back at their youthful five years of age. How many would have curtly been told to sit still? To pick up their cup and drink from it politely? To finish their whole plate of sandwiches? To keep their laughter down? (My pondering did not stem from any of the actions or attitudes of the many women in the room but more from an awareness that I am, without a definite blueprint, moulding my child to some day become a functioning adult.)
Thankfully I never once felt like anyone thought she was misbehaving. After all, she is just a child. (We have been in public before and had a parent point us out as an example of what not to do, which I had wanted to respond to by noting their child's lack of enjoyment but I'm sure that wouldn't have mattered.) We received many comments on how much she had grown and how beautiful her hair was. But I know she was the most rambunctious at the tea. And, in her Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shirt, she was definitely the least ladylike.
And I'm okay with that.
It had briefly crossed my mind as I wiped her face with the flowery napkin that I should tell her to be more well mannered. More proper. Weren't most of the women in the room told that some point (or many times) in their lives? To sit a certain way and maybe even place their napkin in their lap? To keep their voice down and smile at all who approach?
I'm not saying I'm against manners. I strictly enforce please and thank you. There was some volume control. And I can't believe how often I have to tell her to keep her tongue to herself. I'm just wondering what exciting or amazing things would have transpired in the lives of some women if it hadn't been so much about how they looked and how they represented their family. How many women have been stifled right from a young age? Discouraged? Stripped of their voice?
In the end, I want her to see things. Feel things. Enjoy things. Experience her surroundings. Approach life with curiosity. Not sit there and wait.
As always, her imagination was flowing freely at the Tea as she lovingly talked to her biscuit and had conversations with pretend children that commented on her cup of tea. She merrily created scenarios and sanguinely laughed at her ideas.
In contrast to her, I grew up dreadfully shy and embarrassed to be caught using my imagination. I don't think I was made to be quiet or refined, but many other things had taken their toll and squelched my confidence. As a result, I made up numerous songs I never shared. Wrote pages of poems I never let anyone see. Drew pictures I never kept. Turned off ideas before they got anywhere. I wasn't experiencing the most natural part of me. And it took too long to get that back.
This sprouting girl of mine may develop weaknesses because of my parenting. Or should I say, she will. As parents we will not be perfect. We will never notice or prioritize each of the best lessons. We will all miss the boat more than once. But our children will become absolutely individual. Our faults will create unique strengths or areas of empathy or patience that the next child will not have. They will be able to live a life we couldn't imagine.
In my offspring I see abounding creativity, imagination, and fun. I can't envision where that will end up. But in our diddle-daddle moments and roundabout ways and unproductive days, I'll run with that.
What do you see in your child?