We were walking home from school last week when it occurred to me that I had never seen my daughter play softball, wiffleball, or any other type of baseball knock-off. Jumping into Dad mode, I offered to show her a thing or two about a thing or two. She turned me down because, and I quote…
I don’t need help. I’m pretty good.
She began to tell me about a form of ball they play in gym that seemed quite similar to the Babe Ruth version, except it had travelling for some reason. Apparently, Olivia got a hit in her first at-bat.
I did. I hit it far. They couldn’t even get to it. Then I was out.
I had to ask.
If they couldn’t get to it, how did you get out?
She kept walking, without missing a step, and provided an answer that knocked me for a loop.
I ran the wrong way.
Yup and instantly, I imagined it. I could see her dashing to third and then second. I pictured myself there watching it and I pictured her doing it, only she was someone else’s kid, so I could laugh and not feel bad. I have to admit, though, even the thought of my own kid doing it was pretty funny.
I started chuckling. She did too. But, when I asked her why, her reply turned hysterics into something different. Pride maybe? Yeah, I know it’s a weird emotion in the face of your kid running the opposite direction on a baseball field, but it works.
Well, all the other kids were running this way towards first base over there. But they’re righties. I’m the only leftie on the team so I figured I should probably run the other way.
I opened my mouth to speak and then quickly shut it again to think about what she said for a moment. It made sense logically. After all, if she ran to first, it would be one less step than the other kids would take. She reasoned it out and, although she crashed and burned on this occasion, I was actually proud that she ran the wrong way. It’s symbolism for being unique or something, right? Yeah. Let’s go with that.
Stories like this one aren’t new. Olivia’s life has been full of surprising thoughts and sometimes embarrassing moments dating back as far to her youngest years. On her very first day of nursery school, I remember standing outside and making small talk with the other new preschool parents. As our children played, we all talked about “how big they’re getting” through painted smiles. Good ol’ pre-school, pre-opening small talk. Ugh.
As this was going on, my little girl was quickly running back and forth on the pavement between two big plastic ride-along play cars. She appeared to be taking invisible packages from one and moving them to the other. Tired of marveling with bored parents about how large our kids were compared to infants, I turned my attention to Olivia and her awesome imagination.
Hey Liv. Whatcha doing there? Delivering packages?
She looked up with a big smile.
No. I’m stealing gas!
Yeah. Stealing gas. I had no idea where this concept came from. For the record, I have never stolen gas. To be honest, I wouldn’t even know how to steal gas if I wanted to. I tried to laugh it off. I could feel the other moms and dads glaring through me.
Ha ha. We don’t steal gas, sweetie. We buy gas.
She doubled down.
No! I steal gas! I’m stealing all this gas.
The parents stopped talking and the bell rung. I made a mental note to ask her about all of this when she was old enough to explain herself better. A few years later, I did.
She had no idea what I was talking about.
Here’s the irony of it all. My son, who is non-verbal, seems like the one who should produce most of our awkward moments with outsiders. Yet like most of the things with my two children, they’re more alike than not. In fact, based on her age alone, she might have her little brother beat in this department.
The perfect example of this happened when they were both much younger. It was back when my son was getting in-home lessons from various specialists while my barely Kingergarten’d daughter and I feigned busy work.
In the living room, a physical therapist was stretching him out and making him walk along makeshift balance beams. Then, she suddenly let out a very distinct sneeze.
I tried to write it out the way it happened because this woman genuinely pronounced “ah-chooo” when she sneezed. It was in a high-pitched voice and unlike any sneeze I had heard before. Imagine a tiny cartoon mouse with a handkerchief. She had done it once or twice before, so I was somewhat used to it. Olivia, though, wasn’t. Before anyone could even say “God Bless You”, my daughter, still coloring and without looking up, sneered.
That’s not a real sneeze.
The words slithered out of her mouth with a tone of near-disgust. My eyes bugged out and this therapist, who I barely knew, responded to defend her sneeze.
No, it is. That’s my real sneeze.
She still didn’t stop her coloring and simply shrugged. I remember being impressed that my daughter, even at such a young age, was secure enough to speak out on something like that. That was the silver lining. The rest of the cloud was full of embarrassment and apologies. While I explained to Olivia later why it was rude to say that, I still had to respect that I was raising a strong kid. Sure, I was mostly mortified, but a part of me was strangely proud.
To this day, my daughter still amazes me with how her brain works and the things she says throughout the day. I doubt that will ever change and, although it has caused me to want to bury my head in my hands at times, I hope it never does.