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The value of watching

November 12, 2013

It was only 66 this morning.

As I write this, it’s amazingly pleasant outside, so I’m on the front patio of the Whole Foods near me enjoying the pleasantness (translation for the native Floridians: it’s below 80, so you should wear a parka).

Aside from the amazingly pleasant breeze and the nice coffee, writing out here gives me the chance to watch people, and Whole Foods attracts an eclectic lot, including parents with young children.

I had young children once. (Back when I had hair. Is there a relationship there?) It’s been a long time since any affection from my children was consistently given from the same area code (from my daughter) or without seeming like hurts to give it (my typical teenaged son). But if I stop to think about it, I can remember squatting down and holding my arms out, only to have them run with abandon into my embrace.

I forget these things under the more topical events like driver’s tests, insurance payments, and the notification that tuition’s going up. So it was a nice reminder to see the little girl walking tightrope style on the curb and pronouncing, for no apparent reason, that “Hay is for horses.” Or the little boy who stopped walking and decided to hop forward in a move that’s very similar to one I did in my T25 workout this morning. (He was better at it.)

It’s easy to remember the cliched stuff–the grip of little fingers around your pinky as you walk across the parking lot. And the whiny cry that means your child is tired and cranky–at the same time you’re tired and cranky and there are five more errands to run before you get home.

But what about the stuff you forget? Like how you tend to sway back and forth when you stand still out of habit, even when you aren’t holding the baby. And how children can start singing or saying almost anything at any time–and how sometimes it’s just part of the background and you continue your conversation anyway. Or just how apocalyptic it can be to a four-year-old when you decide they need to go home with you and they want to go with Mommy. Or just how much stuff you need to put in the car before you take your infant child anywhere. (“Diaper bag, extra clothes, portacrib, toys, extra bottle, diaper wipes, toys. It’s all here. I know I’m forgetting something.” “Uhh, the baby?”)

These details require observation.

I think my next book will be about bartenders.

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