Several of those conversations were held in her presence. She's all ears, no matter what she's doing, so we're always very careful to ensure that she's either directly included in any of those discussions or at least that we don't say anything around her that we know will give her cause to fret. Perhaps not all kids are so completely tuned in, but it's clear that not all adults are attuned to this dynamic.
At least, that's what I suspect triggered her teary confession tonight where, after several other melodramatic episodes, she sobbed that she was afraid she wasn't smart enough.
"Oh baby," I said, "most of us are afraid that we aren't smart enough, and anyone who thinks they are probably isn't."
"Daddy, who do you know thinks they're smart but isn't?" Oh boy.
I tried to dodge that one by saying, "Well, I can think of a few people, but I know that you're very, very intelligent. Do you know how I know? Because when I caught you as you came out of your Mama's belly and looked into your eyes, you looked right back at me. You looked deep inside me, and in your eyes I saw a wise soul, a person with depth and sparkling intelligence, someone who was already processing the world and making connections...even in your first few seconds of life."
All of that is true, btw. She replied, "Daddy, when I looked deep inside you, what did I see?"
Aw, hell. Wasn't ready for that one. "Uh, you saw my inner child." NICE. "Daddy, what's an inner child? Does that mean I'm your outer child?" Oh geez.
A couple minutes later after trying valiantly to explain "young at heart" and "old soul" in terms understandable by a 4.5 year old, I got back to telling her she was smart. "And do you know what I see? I see a twinkle in your eyes, a bright sparkle that tells me how intelligent you are."
At this point she's staring into my eyes, almost back to being silly and playful, when she says quite seriously, "Daddy...I'm looking into your eyes, but I don't see any sparkles."
Fercrissakes. Then, to top it off: "No, wait! I do see something! Oh...that's just the reflection from the light in the bathroom. It's nothing."