We spent the afternoon at a craggy beach earlier this week, and the kids collected two buckets of white sea shells. Mostly they were broken and smooth from the waves and sand, but they were infinite in number – a true delight for the obsessed.
Ruthie was focused that afternoon. While Thomas played in the distance with the friends we’d come with, she hung back, eyes to the ground, methodically searching for shells in a grid pattern.
That evening at home Ruthie laid the shells out in rows and announced she was selling them – small ones for a dime, medium for a quarter, large for fifty cents, and the one fully intact shell for a dollar.
Alrighty, I said. I’ll take two of the small ones for a quarter a piece.
Before I knew it, she’d caught the attention of everyone who walked by: Would you like to buy a shell? she asked sweetly, turning back to grin at me every time she dared to ask.
She asked everyone from the dog walkers to the neighboring teenagers to the church goers who park in the lot next door (who were the only ones who made a purchase, by the way; score one for Jesus!).
Then yesterday as I made dinner I noticed she was engaged in a project – marker in hand, looking for tape, in and out the front door, NOT antagonizing her brother.
Eventually she came to me and asked, “Mom, how to you spell ‘would’? Not the kind of ‘wood’ that’s a tree but the kind of ‘would’ that says ‘would you like to buy a shell?'”
I went outside to investigate this curious sign project and found that she’d re-purposed my magnetic clips (I later found piles of paper abandoned on the floor at the foot of my refrigerator) to hang her sale signs along the fence. She’s managed to cover the perimeter of our yard, hanging a sign on each side to let the world know she is selling shells.
As I’ve watched this unfold over the last few days, I’m intrigued by all the elements of her personality that blossomed to make this happen – focus, ingenuity, tenacity, and self-starting initiation – elements I fear she’d always use for evil rather than good.
My little girl is growing up. She’s using her mind, she’s creating, and she’s solving problems (no tape? no problem! I’ll use clips!).
I’m growing up, too. I didn’t intervene. I didn’t freak out over the magnet clips. I didn’t try to control any element of this process.
She asked me to spell a word, and she asked me to buy a shell.
It’s all her, and I’m so proud of that.