My daughter “air-quoted” me today.
She’s four. A recently-turned four.
My teeny, blonde Pixie with the Minnie Mouse voice and the high-pitched giggle, who loves Dora and dolls and Disney Princesses, air quoted me.
I think my world spun off its axis for a brief minute.
Just so you follow me, let me give you a little background. Our (LDS) church meets for a three-hour block on Sundays. The children go to Primary for the first half, while the parents attend their men’s/women’s meeting and a Sunday School class. Then the congregation joins together for a Sacrament Meeting during the last 90 minutes. Each January, the Primary children move up a class division, with a new teacher and a new curriculum. Hannah’s former teacher was her best friend’s mom, so she was very comfortable with her. I’ve been preparing her over the past month, pointing out her new teacher, reminding her that her brother and sister will also be changing teachers, and explaining that even if she got to stay with Bella’s mom’s class, since her new baby is less than a week old, “Bella’s Mom” wouldn’t even be in church for the next few months. I saved the best (or so I thought) for last, sharing in whispered awe that her new teacher’s name is … wait for it … ISABELLE, almost like Isabella, her best friend, and very close to Belle, her favorite Disney princess. I thought I had it all wrapped up.
Oh, I was so wrong.
So back to this morning… Hannah woke up first, which gave us a few extra minutes of snuggle time. We chatted about what I’d make for breakfast (eggs), if I thought her hair looked good in braids (yes), if we were going to take another vacation (not until summer), and what we were going to do today (clean, laundry, errands, put away the last of the Christmas stuff). I gave her a big hug and stood up to get her little brother out of his crib. Before I could take two steps away, she said casually, offhandedly, “So, uh, Mom, just so you know, that lady with the black hair and pink dress? I don’t really like her so much. ‘Cuz her name isn’t Bella, it’s just (*air quotes*) Isabelle.”
I think I just aged ten years.
You know, it wasn’t what she said; I am very confident that in a month, Hannah will adore her new teacher. It was a response borne of unease and unfamiliarity. I get that. What killed me, what made my jaw drop to the floor was the ease in which she used the air quotes, as if she’d been doing it all her life. How does a recently-turned four-year-old learn such things? Forget how… WHERE? It would have been so cute if she’d used them incorrectly, like Joey did on that episode of “Friends”, but no.
Air quotes. I’m still shaking my head in disbelief. What next?
You know what? Scratch that. I don’t even want to know.