I sat in the driver’s seat of my car, looked in the rearview mirror and heard myself say the words, “Girls, please put your seatbelts on.” I glanced again to make sure they were fastened and said “I can’t go anywhere till they’re on.” I jumped out and went to the backseat to fiddle with the seatbelts, then hopped back in the front seat and put the car in drive. Holy shit I am the responsible adult. Act normal. Act normal.
My new best friends in Boulder (aka the awesome couple whose shower I nearly broke) needed my help with their daughter’s eleventh birthday party. It sounded like fun. And beside, it was the least I could do considering how graciously they’d welcomed me into their home and offered me and my bikes shelter while I found a place to live. This was how I found myself with 2 eleven year old girls in the back of my car on the way to a fun-filled afternoon of ice skating, henna tatoos, and candy apples. We headed north, toward the mall. Like any curious adult, I asked the proverbial question, “What did you do in school?”
“Not much. It was a pretty low-key day.”
Low-key?? How do they know this expression? They are in the 4th grade! Maybe they learned this on myspace?
The conversation flowed from school to class pets to organic food.
“Any food that isn’t organic is gross!”
Huh? I know this is Boulder, but this seemed extreme. I sought to clarify the 11-year old’s stance.
“Really? All of it?”
“All of it.” She was not backing down.
“What about, like… Doritos? Do you eat those?”
“Ring Dings and stuff?”
“I don’t think those are organic.” I’m no expert but I thought this sounded reasonable.
“I mean fruits and vegetables. Those need to be organic.”
This was an interesting distinction. I did not press the issue. The conversation then meandered around to the hatred of another girl. Her offense? Housing her pet gerbil in a purple sparkly cage according to the hater. Her companion, the birthday girl asked, “What’s so bad about that?” I liked this kid.
By the time we got out of the car, I realized, sitting in the front and acting like a responsible adult wasn’t too hard. You just had to ask a few questions here and there, let them talk, ask follow-up questions, and pay close attention to the road and drive more cautiously then normal. I decided I was doing an excellent impression of an adult. I continued the charade, taking one of the girls’ bookbags, dedicating myself to making sure it did not get lost (Why can’t I be that way with my own stuff??). I paid attention to traffic vigilantly at every crosswalk and mentally counted four girls periodically. I kneeled down on the cold ground and made sure skates were fastened appropriately and sneakers were placed in the duffle bag. I even put some stranger’s little pink pumas in the bag by mistake. (She got them back eventually). I handed out hot chocolates. I advised the girls against going onto the ice with their cocoas in hand. Where was this stuff coming from? It was like I was a grown-up or something. I didn’t sound the gong in the henna tattoo shop, but admittedly that was under the direction of my friend, the mom who organized this afternoon’s festivities. She said “If you do that, it might inspire other people to do it too.” I took the hint.
My friend and I sat down to rest while supervising the girls playing in the mall, staring in disbelief. How were they still running around? From whence came this boundless energy? How do parents manage to chase after these kids day after endless day? Would a passerby assume that I was one of these children’s mother? (While seated it was not readily apparent that I was taller than only one of them). Could I actually pull this off someday with rugrats of my own?
I just drove nearly across the country to re-establish myself in a totally new place but I had to keep track of a gaggle of 11 year old girls to feel like an adult. Go figure.