At the Playground

18.  Allowing myself to get freaked out by dirty children who want to touch my infant. I know children get dirty; and somewhere deep inside, I know Eloise will, one day, run amuck with dirt on her knees and heaven knows what in her hair. (Actually, maybe not. My husband has a similar fear of child filth.) But really—I know kids must be kids and, more importantly, should be allowed to be kids, even if that means scampering about like a dirty hippy. In fact, in the last couple months, I’ve become heartened by the fact that Eloise really seems to love sitting in grass, playing in leaves, and digging tiny ditches like a wee squirrel. I try to embrace her admiration for the outdoors by plopping her down on the lawn whenever I can, even though I’m not so partial to what lurks beneath. No need to project my nonsensical scaredy-cat-ness.

I’m really trying my best not to project my fear of dirty children onto Eloise. I want her to enjoy other children at the park, rather than have her say, “Ew, you’re gross” when she begins talking. Today was difficult. We were settled on our blanket at said park—Eloise was both enjoying the blanket and off-roading at her leisure—when two little blonde girls came up to play a clumsy variation of catch. Blonde Girl B’s nanny was ready to pack up and go; however, Blonde Girl B wasn’t into that idea. Instead, she came over and sat on our blanket. Now, before I say this, I know I’m ridiculous, so no need comment about how terrible I am. But all I could think was, Hello, little blonde girl. You’re very adorable, but just because we were looking at you does not mean we want you to sit on our blanket. Where the hell is your nanny? Oh nanny, blanket encroachment over here! And then Blonde Girl B calls over to Blonde Girl A, “Come sit on the blanket!” I was saved, though, because thanks to the short attention spans of 3-year-olds, Blonde Girl B decided she wanted to do a cartwheel about .5 seconds later. But then Blonde Girl A ended up coming over, sat on the blanket, and hollered to her mother, “Look at this cute baby!” and started touching Eloise’s hand and face with her little paws. “The baby might want some alone time with her mommy,” the mom hollered back. Smiling through my trauma, I replied, “Oh no, it’s okay, haha [but perhaps you might want to shovel all that dirt from beneath your child’s fingernails].”

As I write, I feel both amused and ashamed. Admittedly, I just haven’t been out there (there meaning the world of playgroups and playgrounds and parks and places where kids congregate and [gasp!] interact) enough to get used to the fact that tykes will play and hold hands and share germs. And admittedly, as soon as that mother and her little one were out of sight, I wiped Eloise down with an antibacterial wipe, which I use only in such emergencies.

PS: If the mother of the touchy-feely little girl ever happens upon this, and it sounds vaguely familiar, please accept my sincere apology. I know I’m mean. I’m working on it. Your child really is cute, and she’ll surely be a friend to all.

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