Big Children, Little Adults
28th October 2020
As a teenager, I was always wary of teachers, or any adults for that matter who, in an attempt to connect with us, tried really hard to get down on our adolescent level. They always seemed desperate. I didn't know what for. Acceptance, perhaps.
Such a longing is perfectly innocent. Yet I disliked them for it. In the stormy seas of school, I relied on older figures as unwavering pillars of certainty. To find out adults could be as insecure as I was felt like an injustice.
As a teen, I had a right to feel insecure. I got inexplicable erections in maths class. What excuse did they have?
None, I believed. Adults should be adults. Period. They should shake off adolescent anxieties like a wet dog flicks off droplets.
I never wavered from this belief either, until, of course, I became an adult too and drove to Rockingham with Jay. We were having dinner at her family friend's mid-20th-century beach shack.
As we turned into the driveway, the family friend's daughter, Violet, sprinted across the yard. "JA-A-A-A-Y-Y-Y-Y," she screamed.
Jay sometimes looked after Violet and evidently, they had quite the bond. Jay bounced out of the car, crouched down and held out her arms and the little girl ran into them.
“Come,” Violet said to Jay. “I have someone to interrupt you to.”
I rolled out of the passenger seat and waved. “Hello, Violet,” I said.
She turned her head and looked me up and down. Then she turned her back on me, grabbed Jay’s hand and led her to the sandpit.
On the verandah, there were Jay's family friends and their friends (and their kids). I sat down with them and cracked a beer. We chatted about beef.
After a while, Jay returned from playing with Violet. “Want a wine, darling?” I said.
“Yes, please,” Jay said.
“Okay, I’ll go inside and get a bottle.”
I walked to the front entrance and there, at the door, Violet stood looking at me. I cautiously stepped around her, inside. She stepped outside. “Hi Violet,” I said.
“Hi,” she said but with her head down.
“What are you doing inside?”
Her tiny hand reached for the glass door. She looked up at me and held a fierce stare as she began to slide the door shut. “Drawing,” she said and finished the job.
Woah, that was scary.
The sun began to set and we went for a walk. When we got back, I was fatigued, partly from the walk, partly from the third beer I was on. I sat down on the kitchen table next to Violet and one of the other children. They drew obscure stick figures and played with princess stickers.
Then the other child left and there was just Violet and me which I found unbearably uncomfortable, given the last two encounters. There are a plethora of reasons why a child might not want to talk to a suspicious man with a beard, none of which I should take personally. Yet, I did. I took another sip of my beer. “So,” I said. “You like to draw?”
She didn’t say anything, or look up, or acknowledge me. Like at all. Abashed, I twiddled my thumbs. Stupid, Jayden, I thought. That was a stupid thing to say. You like to draw? Stupid, stupid.
I tried to redeem myself. “Wow, Violet. That’s a pretty colour. What’s that colour?” I leant in and pointed to an aqua blue.
She sighed and said, “I want to be alone now.”
I got up and headed for the door. "Jay," I called. "Jay-y! Violet just told me to go away."
At this inhospitality, Violet's parents had a word with her. After the word, Violet came outside and apologised to me but I could tell she didn't like me for it. I wouldn't be surprised if this resentment stayed with her too, until adulthood, that is.
. . .