On Sunday, our local library celebrated Family Literacy Day with all kinds of fun events. There were puppet shows, live music, a magician, a craft table, etc. It was like a con for kids! There was even SWAG.
So I took Gwen out to the festivities and watched her brain explode at the concept of there being live, amplified music in the lobby of the building where we usually remind her to use her quiet voice. We took in two shows, the puppet show and the magic show. There were chairs in the rooms where these shows took place, but most of the kids elected (and were encouraged) to sit on the floor directly in front of the performers. Though Gwen sat on my lap for the puppet show, she happily joined the crowd of kids watching Zigster the Trickster from as close a vantage point as they could possibly get.
I really enjoyed Zigster's patter and his tricks. He'd obviously crafted this particular show to appeal to kids, at their humour and comprehension level, but it was also great fun for the parents in attendance. But even as I watched the show, my awareness was also on Gwen. Gwen was both physically and mentally away from me, relating to the kids and the magician without any mediation from me. It's hard to describe how special that felt.
Then, Zigster singled Gwen out and asked her to come help with one of the tricks. Time sort of slowed down for me for a moment. Would she respond? Would she even recognize that he was talking to her? Would she get shy, or lose focus? She stood up and said "Sure!" and marched over to behind his magician's chest and sat down beside him. I was absolutely tickled. Immediately after sitting down, she started looking around for me; fortunately, I was in the front row and gave her a little wave. "See, your mom's right there, she's protective, I can tell," Zigster said. He pulled out a deck of cards and asked her to pick one. Gwen, who has likely never seen a deck of cards in her life, stared blankly as he fanned through them a couple of times, then started looking around at all the other magic accoutrements. Zigster made her unco-operativeness a point of humour, which is probably exactly what he intended to do anyway. "Do you have, like, any interest at all in what I'm doing here?" he asked. "Yes!" replied Gwen, and of course the audience burst into laughter. "So, could you pick a card, like, today? How about that one? That one right there looks good." He wiggles one card out of the deck and Gwen takes it. "Show it to the audience. Show it to them, but not to me. Don't let me know that it's the ten of hearts, now. Just show it to them." Gwen holds the card obediently and somewhat blankly, with no idea what she is supposed to be doing. Then he asks her to put it back in the deck, which she does, and he shuffles the cards all together, only to produce the same card MAGICALLY a moment later. "Is this your card?" "YES!" shouts Gwen, and she probably had no idea what he was asking her but she was just so darn happy to be there. The girl knows her cues, she is born for show business.
Through the whole trick, I was giggling madly and bursting with pride and oh so very aware that I have a kid. Not a baby, not even a toddler anymore. She's a kid. If she can interact with a stranger in a somewhat meaningful and appropriate way, without any other mediation, she's a kid. If she can sit apart from me and negotiate personal space with other children, she's a kid. She has a lot to learn yet about the subtle give-and-take of social skills, but she's starting to take a step away from me and figure that stuff out for herself. She's a kid. Ready or not, here she comes.