Small TalkFebruary 28, 2011 at 12:02 am | Posted in Lollipop | 21 Comments
Tags: Children, Conversation, Curiosity, Fun, Imagination, Kids, Motherhood, Outdoors, Parenting, Relationships
The woman approached us pushing a purple jogging stroller and carrying a green cloth bag. She walked to the picnic table just to our right and began unbuckling complicated straps, re-securing Velcro shoes, and wiping noses. She helped a boy and girl out of the stroller and waved them toward the playground. “Have fun!” she said as she sat down.
With one eye, I casually watched this ritual (one I had performed countless times myself) as I entertained baby Bun on the patch of grass I had chosen. With the other eye, I mentally tracked Lollipop and Giggles as they scampered between the slides and the swings.
Cloudy with a Chance of Acorns
We sat quietly for a few moments before one of us started up a conversation. I can’t remember if it was her or me. We talked about the usual things: the weather, how crowded it was for a Friday, and whether we ought to report the broken scooper. In between the small talk, we tended to our little ones, dumping pebbles out of shoes, searching for dropped acorns, and refereeing trips down (and up) the slide.
“So how old is your little girl?” I asked.
“Oh, she’s 21 months, but she’s not mine,” the woman said. “I’m the nanny.”
The Sound of Silence
“Oh,” I said mildly. But my brain was in a tizzy. A nanny? In my neighborhood? On a Friday and this close to dinnertime? How long has she been the nanny? What does she really want to do? Does she have kids of her own? Does she love these kids like they’re her own? Do they listen better to her or to their parents? Is it a hard job? Is it fun?
I wanted to ask all of these questions. To find out more. To pry. But I didn’t. Instead, I shut my mouth. And could think of nothing else to say. Nothing.
We sat awkwardly for a few moments. I pulled out a snack for Bun, who wasn’t hungry and let me know it. But our collective brood sniffed the Cheerios in the air and all came running. I opened a package of graham crackers for Lollipop and Giggles, and the nanny peeled bananas. (Notice which one of us brought non-prepackaged snacks. Point: Nanny.)
The Banana Seat
Spotting the yellow manna, Lollipop stood up and approached the table. “Do you happen to have another one in your bag for me?” she asked. “Bananas are scrumptious. I’ll share my grahams. Here, have a graham cracker, little boy.” She handed him a square and plopped herself down at their table.
Long after the snacks disappeared and the others resumed dropping buckets of leaves down the slide, Lollipop sat and talked to the nanny. She told her about her brothers: their names, their birthday months, their favorite colors and foods. She asked a dozen questions when the nanny started to eat a strange, purplish fruit called a “nectarine.” She commented on the woman’s earrings and tennis shoes.
They talked for almost an hour, until I spotted pink, dusky clouds glowing between bare oak branches. I packed up our things while Lollipop and Giggles took two last turns each down the slide. Lollipop waved to the nanny and her charges. “Goodbye, friends! We’ll see you next time, okay?” she said. “Have a good night!”
I smiled and said I hoped we would see them again.
I meant it. The woman was nice. The kids had a good time together. No one threw (or ate) rocks. And Lollipop learned about nectarines.
But before next time, I need to brush up on my mingling skills. Or make a cheat sheet of conversation topics. Or bring a bunch of bananas. I need to do something, anything, to make words come out of my mouth.
Before my four-year-old beats me to it again.
Are you a playground small-talker? What do you talk about? Are your children more social than you? (And do they eat nectarines?)