I don’t think I was very good at being a kid. Once I learned to be self-conscious, I excelled at it and I always wanted to be a little older than I was. I was more comfortable talking to a babysitter than kids my own age. I never danced with abandon or was really excited to have my face painted or have a balloon animal. I just wanted to blend in.
To some extent, I am still very much that way. In most situations, all I want to do is blend and I abhor doing new things – especially by myself. I am, much to some people’s surprise, a near textbook introvert at heart. I would rather stay home and read a book than go out with friends. College never found me in bars and rarely in large parties where I didn’t know most of the people there. Before Robbie was born, I relished the hour or so of pure quiet I had after work before Justin got home, especially because, as a teacher, I don’t have the option to be an introvert. I pretend all day and then need time to recharge.
Robbie is, much to my delight and exhaustion, nothing like that. He is every bit an extrovert and he soaks in every aspect of being a kid without the fear of judgement I had. Take today, for instance…
For the past week, Robbie has been begging me to get his face painted. We went to Sunrise Trackside at Keeneland last weekend, and the face painting line closed before we could get there. Someone at work sent out an email about an open house with, you guessed it, face painting. We had to be there.
After Chinese school, Robbie and I headed to the open house. He ran to get into line to get his face painted and was immediately distracted by a clown making balloon animals. When the clown asked Robbie what he wanted, Robbie replied, “A rocket ship!” with more enthusiasm than I would have about finding out someone was going to do my laundry for the next year. Unfortunately, a rocket wasn’t an option; however, a rocket hat was. As he stood there watching his hat being built, the smile grew larger and larger. And then he did what I never would have done as a kid – he wore it. For nearly an hour.
After the rocket hat, Robbie got back in line to have his face painted. As soon as it was his turn, the face painter asked Robbie what he wanted on his face. He replied, without hesitation, “I want you to make me a blue shark, please.” I had no idea such a thing existed – and I’m not sure the face painter did either. She asked if he wanted her to draw a shark on his cheek, and he confidently replied, “No. Please make me a blue shark with sharp teeth.” And so she did. He proudly displayed his shark face until it was wiped off shortly before bed – including the four hours that he spent at church with all the big kids at parents’ night out.
Robbie dances like no one is watching. He plays games even when he’s not sure all of the rules – take the dunking booth this afternoon for example. He had no idea how it worked, but he had a blast throwing baseballs and even connected twice (just not hard enough to dunk the freezing person stuck on the platform). He climbs tall, inflatable slides with the big kids. Robbie has fun, and he doesn’t care if he sticks out or if anyone notices at all. So, even though I didn’t do all of these things as a child (and still don’t as an adult), I love watching Robbie do it. It fulfills something that’s been missing in me, and I’m grateful I have someone to show me that it doesn’t matter what other people think as long as you’re having fun.