Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Waiting for the bus

Riding the bus gives Scooter and me more time to chat in a very non-pressuring way. Most days I'll ask questions about school--what he will do or has done, depending on the direction we're headed--and then let him go on at length about whatever catches his fancy. Usually non-school-related, but at least I get a glimpse into what's going on in his mind. Today provided two thought-provoking exchanges.

On the way to school:
As we waited for the bus, Scooter watched some people walking across the street. He said, not very loudly but possibly loudly enough, "That woman has a fat tummy."

"You shouldn't say things like that," I responded. I could see, flashing across his face, something that would have been but it's true, if he could have put his thoughts into words. And I realized that "should" is subjective, so I added, "It's not nice. It might hurt her feelings."

He seemed to sort of get it, but was a little upset about being called on it, so he justified: "I was only saying it to myself."

I smiled at him and back-tracked a little: "You can say it to yourself. Just say it a little more quietly."

During this exchange, I quickly noted that this is the first time he's come out with a statement quite like that. Usually when he notices people, it's to remark on their movement ("Where are they going? Maybe to the park.") or some object they have with them. I would have expected him to remark on the stroller being pushed by another woman in the group. But instead, he was observing people-y qualities.

On the way home:
Scooter and I were trudging up the hill from his preschool to the bus stop. We always have plenty of time, so I let him dawdle, encourage it even. One of the houses along the way has had a "For Rent" sign up for some time now. The sign started out with the logo of a local company, the realtor's name and phone number at the bottom. Recently, that information was blocked out by much duct tape and a new phone number written in black marker. Yesterday, Scooter noticed that the sign looked different. I explained about the tape, saying that they wanted to put a new phone number on it. So today as we neared the sign, he said, "I want to read the new phone number."

"OK," I paused, waiting for him to start. When he didn't, I asked if he saw the number. He seemed a bit unsure, so I coached him a bit: "It starts with five-five-five." (Not the actual first three digits.) "Do you see what comes next?"

He studied the last four digits, 1200. "One thousand..." pause, during which I was impressed he knew the number, "two hundred." Not exactly the way we tend to say phone numbers, but more complicated than the one-two-zero-zero I would have expected. He has long been able to count to 20 and from there to 100 by tens. I'm sure he's heard references to 1000, but I was a bit awestruck to realize that he could pull all of those concepts together. (Makes me laugh a bit when I consider that one of the questions on the kindergarten enrollment form was whether he was beginning to recognize some letters and numbers.)

He may answer most of my questions about what he did at school, who he played with, what he ate for snack with a standard "I don't know" until I can draw information out with pointed questions. But there's no doubt he's got a lot going on in his mind--and something about waiting for the bus that brings it out.


Lisa b said...

There is something with men and just doing stuff together. you can't just talk, you have to be doing something - shooting hoops, golf or, apparently, the bus.

Naomi (Urban Mummy) said...

It still amazes me the things that they know how to do, that we don't know they know how to do!

cinnamon gurl said...


As for the fat reference, I read a fascinating book -- years ago now -- called Fat!So? that talked about how kids just make observations without value: fat, brown skin, whatever and adults very quickly apply the value judgment. We teach them that fat is bad. The book suggested responses like "yes and isn't it wonderful all the different shapes and sizes we come in."

I hope my comment doesn't feel like a rebuke, but this is a subject close to my heart...

Mouse said...

Sin-I like that response and will definitely try to train myself to say that sort of thing. His remark hit a bit of a sore spot for me, so I responded too quickly.

And the number thing is just a reminder to me of how much Scooter can synthesize random bits of information he encounters.

I'll need to remember waiting for the bus in those difficult teen years when he can't even be drawn out with yes/no questions.

Aliki2006 said...

Wonderful snippets into your moments with Scooter! Thanks Sin for pointing that out, too--I am guilty of applying those value judgments to things my children say, too. I'll have to work on some re-training of my own.