The Purple Eggplant


My daughter’s preschool held parent-teacher conferences this week, and I had the conference that I expected. Intellectually my daughter is where she should be, even excelling when it comes naming purple fruits and vegetables. Her preschool is participating in the “Color Me Healthy” program facilitated by a Health Educator from the Rock County Health Department. Apparently in one session the children were asked to name fruits and vegetables in each of several colors. When they got to the color purple many of the children chimed “grapes”; then there was silence.

The teacher for the session acknowledged that there weren’t a lot of purple foods. After which, my daughter raised her hand and said “eggplant”.

This seemed, to the two teachers in the room, to come from left field, and they asked her “Do you eat eggplant at home?”

“Eggplant is purple,” was her determined reply.

My daughter’s teacher asked me about the eggplant response at our conference. I vaguely remembered something about eggplant, but I couldn’t place the reference. When I returned home and told the story to my husband, he remembered.

“It’s the book. That color book that we hid because we got tired of reading it at bed time.”

“Oh yes that one—the one where you and I couldn’t believe someone had actually used eggplant to illustrate the color purple in a children’s book.”

It was also the book that generated this conversation:

“Okay, time to pick your bedtime stories.”

“These two. Colors and Numbers.”

“Not those again. Let’s read an actual story, one with a beginning, middle and end.”

“These have a beginning middle and end. See.” She opened the number book to page one. “Here’s the beginning.” She turned to the middle, around number 10. “Here’s the middle.” And then she turned to the last picture, illustrating the number 20, “and here’s the end.”

My husband roared. “She’s got you there, Mom.”

As my daughter climbed into bed with her books, I whispered, “These books are going to disappear.”

My daughter’s teacher reports that she is quick to run off and explore if she sees something interesting, she and is not at all responsive to being told something is not hers to look at or touch once she is on her “mission”. That is partially my doing because I encourage exploration whenever I can. Still, she needs to learn to listen and follow directions. It’s a fine line, teaching children to listen and follow directions while at the same time cultivating a fearless intellectual curiosity. They need both qualities to succeed in life. Teaching them when to apply each one is a delicate task.

Apparently her manners are exemplary, to the point of saying a very sweet but firm, “no thank you” to her teacher when asked if she would like to follow the directions and recolor something the color that had been specified. I feel for the teacher; it’s frustrating to have a sweet little Bartleby on your hands, but still, I’m a little jealous. I usually don’t get the “thank you” after the “no”.

I do know that my daughter is learning from her school experiences, including the Color Me Healthy program. It hasn’t deterred her from her love of Oreo cookies, but it has dramatically increased her intake of grapes, strawberries and apples. And, she is constantly asking me “Is this food or that treat healthy?” So we are having those discussions at home, and I am even talking to her about things like protein, sugars, good and bad fats and carbohydrates.

Color Me Healthy has spilled over into our extended family as well. During a family gathering at Grandma’s recently, my daughter approached her college-aged cousin who was eating a cookie and announced, “That cookie isn’t healthy.” She grabbed the cookie, walked into the kitchen and threw it into the trash. She asked me to wash a strawberry, which she took to her still surprised cousin. “This strawberry is a healthy snack. Eat it.”

We need to work on delivery, but she’s learning and applying knowledge in her life. I don’t think I could ask for much more.
© 2011 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

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