Yesterday, sitting in the viewing area of my children’s swim lessons, I watched a child in front of me climb under their folding chair and lie on their back. They seemed to study the underside of the chair, touching the screws at its corners, frowning.
Mom, they said after a few minutes of this, not moving from their spot under the chair. Hand me the wrench!
Mom, who had been watching the pool, seemed to break from a daydream. What, honey? she asked.
The wrench! Hand me the wrench.
The wrench?? She looked at the empty chair, at the floor, in her well-stocked bag–from which I had already seen her pull two subdivided RubberMaids carrying sliced cucumber and turkey sandwiches cut on the diagonal–looking for some object whose name (bench, ranch, wench…) might be mistaken for wrench.
And then she did the most remarkable thing–a thing that no adult in their right mind would think to do, that only one steeped in the imaginary world of a particular child would fathom, a thing so empathic and creative and quick that I wanted to bestow upon her a Nobel Peace Prize and a Pulitzer and a Fields Medal all at once. She said, without fanfare:
Oh–the wrench, and picked it up from its place on the chair and handed it over the edge to her child.
And the child took it and said thanks and continued his restoration of the chair’s underbelly, and the mom returned to watching the pool as if she had not just dipped out of our physical world and into the parallel universe of her child’s imaginings.
It was a nothing-moment of their day–a moment I doubt that either of them remembered by the time they left the swim school–but one that revealed the intimacy and mutual respect of their relationship. It was a snack-sized moment of care, pulled from this parent’s stores of love and practice, that this child knew would be there when they asked.
It was a miracle, really, this tiny glimpse of the kindness a caregiver can show to a child.