Friday, January 28, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green

For a toddler, being "green" is difficult. It can be adorable to watch this tiny little being figure out all this newness, but it can also be frustrating for all parties involved.

Green popped into my head when I tried to explain to my daughter why we don't throw all the garbage away in the blue pail, and that most of the yucky stuff goes in the black one. I explained that the blue one is for things that we can use again. It's hard to explain that the light she can reach and turn on herself shouldn't be on right now.

Yesterday when we walked by a few bright yellow flowers growing from the ground, she wanted to pick them. I had to figure out a way to explain that we don't pick flowers, we just buy the ones at the stores (that other people picked). No one is born with an instinct to conserve. She would start five different apples all day if I let her. Take a few bites, throw it away, then a few minutes later start another one. That marshmallow test, where they told the kids (sitting and salivating in front of a marshmallow) that if they could wait a few minutes they would get two. The youngest kid was four -- they wouldn't waste their time or marshmallows on a two year old.

In terms of the immaturity kind of green, kids minds can ripen so fast. What isn't fast is my ability to think on my toes when I try to explain new things. I often find myself trying to explain why something is the way it is, or works the way it does. My wide eyed little wonder looks up at me and asks me "why" countless times a day. She has a new fondness for throwing pennies into fountains. She stared by noticing a bunch sitting on the bottom of a fountain and wanting to pick them up. I explained that people put them there so we don't take them. "Why?" I start out and say things like "because, the people made a wish and then they tossed them in."

Immediately she had me emptying my pockets of all my hard earned pennies. Happily, she would throw them into the fountain. I would ask her if she had a wish and she would respond by saying she wished for water for the pennies. Okay so perhaps I didn't really explain it that well. I explain again that she could wish for something she really wanted. Yesterday, she said, "I wish for my friends." Now obviously, my two year old didn't have a falling out with her friends and wish for them back, but I do think she knows her friends make her happy, so I think she got it. It did pain me for a second, when I flashed forward to her at thirteen wishing for friends. Oh dear, I hope I have the strength to watch her go through junior high.

There is so much trial and error for me as a parent. That understanding of the wishes took a couple of weeks. I would explain things and find myself talking too much, or saying too little. I would say words she didn't know yet and then have to explain what the words meant. I would give some head heavy philosophical answer and she would furrow her brow. I also gave short answers which just lead to more questions. Yesterday (it was a full day between the fountain and now this), we were waiting to cross the street. The hand was red and she wanted to go. I explained that we have to wait until the hand is gone and the white man lights up. White man? Who thought to do that? I know I am being ridiculously sensitive to political correctness but saying "look for the white man to say go before you can walk" just doesn't feel right. Aren't there brown or yellow lights they could have used instead? This is Los Angeles and white is not the majority anyway so wouldn't a different color made more sense? I quickly said it again but left out the word "white." I said she had to wait for the man to light up. Or the person to light up. At that point I realized she isn't getting any of this, and saying less is more.

She has a book about Martin Luther King that we bought on his birthday. It is for young kids, but not quite as young as her. It explains that he stood up for what he believed in, and that blacks should have the same rights as whites. I didn't read all of that though. I just said that he and his friends wanted to ride the bus and go out to eat at restaurants, and that he spoke up so they could.

She doesn't notice people are different colors and I am not interested in pointing that out. People are born tolerant -- they just learn racism right? That night, she picked up the book and pointed to the man on the podium and said "That's Martin, mommy. He want to go out to eat." She will put it all together in her own time. It baffles me when I think about how much she observes and retains.

It might be tough to be green, but I find it's tougher trying to figure out how much water I need to help her grow.

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