We went for a walk by the river. As an older man went past with a little dog, Zoe excitedly beelined for them. She loves doggies, but stopped short of mobbing this one and politely asked permission to pat her. The man was clearly impressed – Zoe is so little that it is always surprising how articulate she is. She patted the dog and played with her, then said, “Thank you.” He responded, “Thank YOU,” and we all went on our way.
Mommy, she said urgently, That man said, ‘Thank YOU!’
He was supposed to say, ‘You’re Welcome!’
So we talked about what those words mean. Both versions are perfectly OK. He meant that it was a pleasure for him to meet her and talk with her, and he was thanking her for being so polite and nice. Sometimes in the store, the cashier might say Thank You (for shopping at my business) and I might respond Thank You (for checking me out and bagging my groceries). Or I might say Thank You to someone holding a door for me, and that person might say You’re Welcome, meaning that I am welcome to the effort he put forth in holding that door. Zoe and I discussed these social niceties the whole way home.
The details that surprise her catch me by surprise, too, since she knows so much, and is so bright. I give very little thought to HOW she picks things up, but it is amazing to realize how much she has learned in 34 months on the earth. Every detail of societal interaction was, is, or will be something new for her. Every word in her enormous vocabulary. Every skill (she can do somersaults, now!) and every color and every rule and every story and every classic movie is something she has to experience for the first time and relate to everything else she’s seen, touched, and thought about.
Some things we discuss, some she picks up by osmosis – but she came in knowing nothing and now she can have a polite conversation with a total stranger, about a different species (with which she also interacts appropriately). During the minute-to-minute work of keeping Zoe occupied and fed and trying to get her to sleep, I can forget what a complete miracle she actually is. Thanks, Random Polite Dog-Owning Stranger, for the reminder!