I'm Perrin and I have a wanderer. She is currently 4 years old and thinks that I exist mostly to chauffeur her to the event du jour. Once we get to where we are going...well, the wanderer can take over from there. She has no fear of adults, as long as they do their own thing and don't get in her way. She never fears other children or animals she meets along the way. She'd stare down any uppity pack of popular teenage girls at the mall and hold her ground in the path of bikes or strollers on our walking trail every time. Don't get me wrong, she is quite appreciative of my willingness to improve her life through outside activities and my overall driving skills. She tells me all the time to be careful when we are driving so that we don't bump into anything because a policeman might give me a time out. Or worse, delay our timely arrival at said event.
All of this is fine, really it is. I would call my wanderer highly developed and self assured, what parent wouldn't be delighted to have the privledge? She is unapologetic when she has an "idea" that could possibly take her to the next adventure not matter how big or small. To be competely honest, I am in amazement at how she remains unfazed by adults' shhh'ing or yelling at her to protect her safety in stressful moments. She brushes off other's disdainful sighs and unapproving looks like they are merely pleeb's in her ultra posh fraternity of life. She honestly "gets" that she can be super precocious, yet she does not concern herself with other's preconceived notions of how a four year old should act.
But to be a part of the confident wanderer's life, to trail behind her brings a certain amount of low grade stress. She is after all a child, albeit a 45 year old in a 40" body. The people around us only see the 40" inch body. Sometimes it is her nemesis to be physically adorable, female, and Asian. Sometimes it is her saving grace.
The issue with the wanderer is that she is always over fourty paces beyond me when in public. Tall worn out looking white woman in public place, no second glance needed. 40" little Asian person who is seemingly on her own. Ok, where is Asian mommy? Really, where is she? Then it hits people...Oh my, does this child not have a parent supervising? Should I help? Is this going to be an Amber Alert situation? Is channel 6 Action News here? Really, should I notify someone that this little kid has no parent with her?
Unlike my wanderer I am completely aware of other adults in public. I see their looks of disdain when she seemingly has no parent supervising. I also see the fright in their eyes, that fleeting moment when an adult has to make a decision to care whether this child has no apparent matching guardian at her side. I feel as if I should be cataloguing each adult reaction to this episode as it is repeated over and over as the wanderer wields her slippery independent ways. I sense that I am unofficially collecting scientific data on a) the unrepentant child b) adult reactions to a strange child's first 30 seconds of "lost" status and c) the life and times of the multi-racial family.
Some parents I know silently condemn me for being too soft on her. If only I were more strict and firm she would understand that our situation is unique and she must understand that now. She must be aware of predators and harmful vehicles popping out in front of stores. Stay with your parent at all times, no running off!
Yes, I am pretty strict on the running in front of cars issue. No walking without me when we are near the street. But, I just can't squelch that sense of wonder that makes her jump up at the end of a play and exit the theater row long before I gather the coats. She is off to try to meet the actress in the lobby. She is off to gather fairy dust at the kiddie cosmetique at the mall. She is dashing to find hair barrettes while pillow shopping. It is always something for the wanderer.
And there I am. Fourty paces behind, gathering data...hoping she remembers to look back.