I have this issue with being out of place in my own life. I don't fit in, somehow. This is most apparent when I am at playgrounds with Zelma, who is 14 months old.
I just don't know what the etiquette is at playgrounds. We go to a playground almost every day. She loves playgrounds. Generally, at a playground, where I go is dictated by where Zelma wants to go- especially since she still has to hold my hand to walk. Zelma likes to walk up close to people and stare at them (or trees, or dogs, but that's not really the problem). I guess the problem is, what do you say to people?
I thought I had it figured out a few weeks ago, when I resolved to just compliment other people's children. Who doesn't mind a compliment to their offspring? Everyone loves their own children (well, at least everyone who takes their kids to playgrounds, I think). The problem then became (and maybe, if you know me a little too well, you'll see where this is going) I can't always think of a compliment for every kid. In fact, I mostly think of insults, or semi-insulting ruminations, like,
"So, you were once this cute, too, eh? It's amazing how time distorts the features, isn't it?"
"What a good little walker your child is! And at such an early age! You know, I've heard that the children who walk before a year have trouble learning to read, later."
And so on. I don't think kind, normal thoughts. I'm not a bad person, really. I just don't fit in. But, I'm not Joseph Biden or anything. I mean, I don't actually say these things out loud (usually). Most often, I just stand there with a slight smile on my face, looking like an idiot, thinking, "compliment, compliment, think of a compliment compliment!" I mean, all the kids are cute, but somehow, "cute kid" just doesn't seem sufficient.
My favorite adults at the playground come in two varieties. My first favorites are the constant talkers. You know her whole life story, as well as that of her child or children, within the time it takes to push your kid on the swing for five minutes. I just love people who talk a lot. I don't have to say anything! It's great.
My second favorite people are the ones who misbehave. Like the two women today who climbed on top of a play structure and drank giant coffees while their one-year-old ran around (future poor reader, I'm sure) and hit toddlers on the head. Another mother, of twins, eyed everyone suspiciously. When the one year old girl came up and bopped Zelma in the head, I figured it was time for Zelma to learn a little reality in the world, anyway. When she ran up and tried to hit her again, I readied myself for a little defense, but she fell just before she got to Zelma. Zelma looked at her on the ground and tilted her head slightly, while the young mother on top of the play structure yelled at her daughter, "Good! You deserved that!" The mother of twins laughed.
People like this make a smiling idiot like me look great.