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Petit a petit, little by little

Last year Daughter No. 2 and I hunkered down over a French 1 textbook. “Shouldn’t be too hard,” I told her. I’d taken four semesters of the stuff in college, after all. I knew a smattering of food nouns (le pain, le fromage) and had made a decent attempt at parlez-vousing with the Parisian we met at the Grand Canyon a few vacations back. Bring it on.   

Well, it turned out this round of French 1 wasn’t so easy. We were happy to tell it “au revoir” at the end of the school year. Even so, I’ve noticed one phrase she learned occasionally pops up in a strand of her vernacular: “Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid.” Translated, that’s “Little by little, the bird builds its nest.”

You’ve got to love a proverb like that. Sweet. Simple. A word picture anyone can understand. I’m sure they included it in the French textbook to emphasize the importance of mastering little by little the weekly vocabulary lists and conjugations, but my brain tends to lean toward something more maternal. It’s funny. I even thought about it while I was at Klassy Kids, the big consignment sale that comes to town twice a year.

(Let me pause here for a minute to point out the wonderfulness of consignment sales and consignment stores. Where were you when I was raising my kids?)

  If you don’t know how sizable this Klassy Kids thing is, I’ll just say that Daughter No. 1, who gave birth to our new grandguy seven days ago, could not stay away. So while she shopped I was there hanging out with the 2-year-old new big sister who (shock) wanted to hang out in the toy section. Any grandparent worth their salt knows this is a win-win situation, especially if there’s a chair nearby. Granddarling got to poke through the Barbies and play a mini-guitar and ride some noisy contraption until a customer had the gall to buy the thing. I got to stand there and keep her from harming herself, and if I’m honest, I got to stare at the crowd of shoppers. Prime people watching, in other words.   

I’ve got to tell you I liked what I saw. So many young moms were there scouring the racks for deals, preparing their children’s closets for fall and growth spurts and the inevitable worn-out jeans. You know, it was pro-active, relieving-stress-on-the-family-budget type stuff. It seemed to bring out the best in folks.   

I heard a mom with three preschoolers speak gently to her Henry: “I’m sorry to interrupt your playing. I know you’re having fun, but I need you to try on these shoes.”

I watched a future dad who stood at least 6-foot-7 bend down beside his very pregnant wife to study the merits of different infant swings.    

I talked to the young mom wearing a baby on her chest and chasing after another. She told me she wants to stretch her husband’s hard-earned dollars as far as they will go, and a stack of 2T outfits layering her arm testified to the truth of her words.

At the back of the building, I saw buyers rummage through tables of diaper bags and crib sheets and cotton slips and bibs and pacifier holders — all ready for a new cycle of service in someone else’s nursery.    

My own daughter came away with enough of a haul to put a smile on her tired mom-of-a-newborn face. Bless her heart.

All around me, it seemed that petit a petit, parents were building their nests by preparing for the next season, and they were happy about it. Droves of them. Pushing strollers. Holding nappers. Moms with their moms. Dads joining their crew on their lunchbreaks. Happy kids. The whole scene sort of bolstered my faith in the next generation of parents. I didn’t expect that to happen at a consignment sale.

So to those of you I saw cruising the sale this week, keep up the good work of planning ahead and caring well for your children. This “fait son nid” business of parenting involves a lot more than Klassy Kids aisles, but with all the entitlement mentality swirling around these days, it’s nice to see personal responsibility alive and well. 

And to the shopper who put the “sold” sign on that four-piece child-sized kitchen by the front door, the hand-painted wooden one? Boy, did you get a good deal.

Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.