My FTF RPG group has been hanging today. (Face To Face) We took a break and went out to grab something to eat.
We went to this restaurant that I like because the food is nicely priced, I don't work there, and they have refillable diet pepsi, in nice large glasses. We settled in, taking over two tables and were talking, gaming, but for all practical purposes, very well behaived.
This woman came in with a little girl, who I'd say was about three. While she wasn't the prettiest little girl I've ever seen, she had a most enchanting smile.
They sit down at the table behind us. The waitress gets a high chair for the little girl. Mommy wisely pulls out a pad of scrap paper and a zippered bag of crayons. (Since when did it become a restaurant's job to provide your child with toys and crayons? Why can't parents remember to bring that stuff themselves? This mom has the right idea!) The moment the bag opens, the little girl pulls out a crayon, and holds it up. "Green!" she shouts, and giggles.
Everyone at our table froze. This child had the most... enthusiastic laughter you've ever heard in your life. No "shrillness" often associated with kids laughter, just sweetness. It was as if you could never be depressed or unhappy if this kid laughed around you. We all stared at each other a bit, our eyes wide. Then, we all took turns sneaking looks at this little girl.
I was lucky, I was sitting in the best spot to view her without looking like I was gaping. This little girl started drawing a picture and the entire time, she giggled, laughed, and just sounded like she was having the best time in the world. When the waitress took the order, her mother ordered her a scrambled egg with raisin toast. When she heard that, she looked up, her eyes wide with delight and said, "Raisin toast! Oh, thank-you, Mommy! I love you!"
She thanked the waitress for bringing her juice. Not the usual, "Thank you" that children seem to repeat automatically, like trained little monkeys, but with a bright-eyed enthusiasm, as if her entire day was made with a glass of apple juice.
She giggled happily over her drawing, over her breakfast, over everything. Never once did I hear this child whine, cry, or say anything negative. She was so high on life that we all started feeling better.
As she happily ate her raisin toast, something amused her and she let go with a very loud bout of laughter that carried through the place.
Her mother flushed bright red and said, "Shh, Ashley, hush it a bit, will you?"
We tensed. I was waiting for the tirade to begin and for Ashley's tears to start. But that was all mom said. Ashley responded with a hugely cheerful, "Okay, Mommy!" and went back to giggling over toast, a bit quieter.
One of my RP friends looked at me and said, "When I grow up, I wanna be just like her!" (He's about 30) We all laughed, but inside I agreed.
I've never met an adult like this child. I have met a few children similar to her, but never an adult. What is it about the world that takes such a delightful personality and squelches it? What happens to us, that suddenly we can no longer get a rush of joy from a bright green crayon, or some raisin toast?
And I wish I could have told Ashley's mother that she's obviously doing a wonderful job with this child. That I see too many parents that in an effort to turn their children into well-behaived zombies, do nothing but yell at them. So Ashley giggled too loudly. First off, it wasn't that annoying, second, Mom put it right into perspective. Don't make it a big deal. Don't tell her to stop, just dim it a bit.
But, I was afraid she'd think I was a nutcase. So, instead, when we were leaving, I looked at her and said, "That is one of the happiest little girls I've ever seen. And we've had a wonderful time listening to her."
Ashley looked up, grinned at me, and said, "Hi!" (I don't think she really understood what I was telling mom.) Mom looked at me and said, "Why, thank you. She's my little darling." And when Mom smiled, I saw a little bit of Ashley in her. I don't think she chortles over the presence of apple juice, but I'll bet she did when she was Ashley's age.
This mother and daughter combo made my day.