i often find myself in conversations with kids at the park. precocious and friendly ones come up to chat, shy ones sidle over and want to play with arty and need a little encouragement. however it happens, by virtue of having my own, i invariably find myself in conversation with someone else’s small child at some point in my average day.
a lot of the time, these conversations involve some reference to the adult they have with them. for a while, i found myself referring to said adult as ‘mummy’ or ‘daddy’, but then i interrogated that impulse, and realised it was massively presumptuous. what do i know about these kids’ families? they might have mums, they might have dads, they might be foster kids, in the care of other family members, or out with their nanny. assuming a standard parent/child relationship with people i don’t know privileges this kind of relationship over others. if their family doesn’t look or function that way, it could make them feel like their own is ‘different’ or ‘other’.
maybe i’m overly conscious of this because our family is a little non-traditional, but i just i don’t want anyone else’s kids having to justify their family structure to me. if they’re safe and happy, it’s none of my business.
so now when i’m at the park, instead of asking “is that your daddy?” i ask “is that your grown up?” because i know that kids can have a whole range of excellent adults in their lives, and that they don’t have to be a mummy, or a daddy to be important.