P. Donohue Shortridge/Family/The Normal Children
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The Normal Children
Just what does a normal child look like? Not typical, but
normal. I saw a group of them the other day and so I shall paint
We were on the road in the heartland of America, in Nebraska,
as a matter of fact. It was the Independence Day holiday and the
modest roadside hotel where we were staying was bustling with
activity as travelers were arriving and children were excited to
get to the swimming pool.
Poolside, there was a group a families gathered, obviously
friends/relatives including parents and a large group of children
from an infant to about twelve years old. A red checkered
tablecloth lay over a side table spread with food;
corn-on-the-cob, Rice Krispie treats, brownies and jello salad.
Dads were grilling hamburgers and hot dogs. Moms were talking to
other moms and dads while simultaneously seeing to it that
everyone had something to eat, while simultaneously watching the
children in the swimming pool not three feet away. Dads were
either in the pool, grilling or talking to the other adults while
simultaneously watching the children in the swimming pool. No
one was dressed in trendy fashion, neither the children, nor
their parents, they were instead all dressed in clean clothes
appropriate to their task; the dads looked like dads and moms
looked like moms and most significantly of all, the children
looked like children of the age they were.
The children were mostly in the pool; swimming, jumping,
playing games, dropping objects into the pool then diving for
them, racing and laughing. When they got out, they found their
own towels, dried off, found a chair and joined the adults and
other children. They looked at the adults when they spoke, one
boy gave up his seat to a mother and her infant; they drank/ate
something and went running back to the pool. When it was time to
leave because it was getting dark and a fireworks show was about
to begin, the children did not really want to stop the pool fun,
but the dads came over to the pool and said, "time to go boys,
get out of the pool and get ready to go to the fireworks". Moms
and dads were busy packing up the food, folding up the table and
loading the cars, while simultaneously talking to the other
adults and children and watching the children in the pool. No
one yelled, no child whined, not one begged, no one scolded or
told a child more than twice to get going.
The parents' demeanor was clear; while having fun and
engaging with the other adults, the first priority was with their
family and their children. These parents were attentive without
fawning, they were available, but not obsequious, they were
strict without being a tyrant. They were serious, but natural
about being parents.
The demeanor of the children was clear; they played
children's games, yet engaged easily with the adults; they were
in their bodies, they felt safe, and knew that their parents were
right there with them.
They were free to be children.
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All essays Copyright 2001-2006 P. Donohue Shortridge
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