Why Are You Surprised?

I want all you grown-ups, who are grandparents to read carefully and remember to whom you are speaking.  We are in the middle of the holidays that will bring you within a conversation with the very young generation.  You need to be prepared.

Before we go any further all you grown-ups need to tilt your head just a bit and let all that grown-up stuff shake out of your head. It will come out one of your ears… if you let it. You have to shake your head a little to get it all.

Now, remember back when you were about six. You were either in first grade or getting ready to go into first grade. You have spent the summer preparing. One story after another has been told to you.

You have learned the hard way about a lot of things. For example: Don’t be surprised if you tell an animal-loving kid, that it is raining cats and dogs; then expect them not to run out in the rain and check it out. Or tell a kid you have to make it by the hair of your “chinny-chin-chin” and leave your razor out. Don’t be surprised when they take it apart and present the ‘chin hair’ you left behind. Don’t say anything about digging to China if you don’t expect someone to try. Don’t yell that you are going to spank someone then are surprised they did not come right away. When you send a kid out to pick out a switch do not expect them to come in with a tree branch. If you are playing hide and seek don’t be surprised when someone answers you when you ask, “Where are you?”

This is grandparent’s day here at the Senior Center. The kids are visiting with their grandparents. I have to laugh as I hear one kid demand to know, “What is wrong with the kitchen sink? You never want to throw it in.”

Then I think about all the things these kids will never get to experience. The wonderfully satisfying feeling of slamming down the phone. The fun of a record player. I see one little boy shaking his head and looking at a cell phone. I had to ask. “Why are you shaking your head?”

“She wants me to dial a number. How do I do that with buttons?” I tried to explain that the old phones had dials instead of buttons. His eyes are still big and his mouth open. He just can’t imagine why.

The confusion starts with some of the children’s stories and old sayings that only those of retirement age can interpret. We need to explain that when we are discombobulated we are not ready to die. When we are being persnickety it is not a lot of hullabaloos. No matter what shenanigans your grandchild is into hugs and love will always win the day.

When I was teaching I had one little boy who suddenly started showing up every morning with a bruise on the end of his nose. I was a little concerned and asked his mom, “What does the other guy look like?” She laughed and said she had no idea how he got it or why. If I could find out to let her know. I then felt it was safe to just ask him. His grandmother had read him a story about a little boy whose nose grew when he lied. His grandmother had joked with him not to lie… not even in his sleep. He was so afraid he would lie in his sleep he had started sleeping on his nose. It was painful but to him, it was better than waking up with a bigger nose. If you read a children’s story… tell them it is a story. Let them in on the secret that they are not true and not real.

I met a man named Jack today. He said, “Hello, my name is Jack.” All I did was start laughing. I did not want to be rude to the man but could not help myself. I remember when I was being introduced to a new little boy in the neighborhood. I was six. His name was Jack.

Jack climbs beanstalks, runs up hills with somebody named Jill and falls down (he also breaks his crown which means he is not a real prince), Jack O Marble is always falling off the swing, Jack jumps over candlesticks, Jack lives in a box. Jack O’Lanterns scare us on Halloween. Why would I want to play with someone who falls down, falls off, climbs too high, plays with fire, and lives in a box? Yet, Grandmother was surprised. I didn’t want him in the house.

A little boy named Jack moved in next door. I refused to play with him. Especially when I found out his middle name was Peter… Yikes… the pumpkin eater!

Make sure they know why they are getting a swat. Don’t be surprised if they think it is because they did not wipe the cake off their face rather than the fact they got in the cake.

Don’t be surprised. Kids are easy to understand. Just tilt your head and shake it a bit. When I told Jack what I have now told you, he told me he was always getting blamed for everything. We both laughed. He also said he would have made a fortune if he had been a bean salesman. Instead, he was a bean counter… again…we laughed.

Love is the bridge between generations. A strong bridge.

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  1. ” When you send a kid out to pick out a switch do not expect them to come in with a tree branch. ”
    One summer day way back when I was about 7 or 8 my two younger brothers and I decided to relieve our closest farmer of a few big watermelons. Boy howdy did they taste good! Unknown to us, his wife just coming up the road from shopping in town, had witnessed our small transgression and made a call to our Grandma for a report. Later coming we all came home grinning and chattering thinking that we’d gotten away with something. But there was Grandma standing before us legs spread like a gunfighter, hands-on-hips and staring at us with a face forged from steel. The glare in her eyes and the tightness of her lips showed us that we were in a right heap of trouble!
    Being the oldest, I tried to explain that we had not done anything wrong. But she wasn’t swallowing that. ” Go get me a switch, now! ” she ordered. There was not sass back here. We all turned and marched out to find us a switch. at the corner of the house was a nice Hickory bush and my brother pulled off a decent sized branch that looked like it might break during use. But me being the logical one I thought naw let’s get an even smaller one she won’t notice. Little did we know. Getting back we all stood before my Grandma and presented the ordered switch. She looked at it and huffed. To our surprise, she left us standing there and left the room. Ah, a reprieve we though. But she returned and then she said.
    ” You boys did not bring a switch…” Grandma suddenly displayed a damn log! and said ” that was not a switch…This is a switch… To me and my brothers, the branch she held looked like the entire bush

    1. I understand that one. I spent several tearful moments putting cool water on the switch marks on my legs. Once I even ran from my grandmother. Big mistake. I tried to confuse her with which one of the kids I was. I kept telling her I was my sister. She got confused all right. My sister never forgave me for that one. We both got spanked. One swatch was devasting to us. But oh, I was so dramatic about it. The mark faded within a few minutes. I was going to show my mom when she got home from work. By that time we were having milk and cookies in front of the TV watching cartoons.

  2. TX Jane, Enjoyed reading this story and never thought like that as a child when my Mother or Grandfather would make remarks like you wrote in this story, but am sure I said some of them to my children and to my 2 grandson’s.

    1. I was very good at being a brat. I could always rationalize why I did something. I spent almost my entire first grade sitting in the corner of the classroom. You were probably a very good little girl. I was very active. I was always getting into trouble for taking the wrong interpretation about something.

      1. Well I tried to be and never got to many sit on the chair till I tell you that you can get up from my Mother. I lived with her and her father and his cousin Margie who came to live with us before I was born as her husband had passed away and she came back home to Greencastle , PA. to be with her sister’s . She had no children and she also helped my Mother raise me as my Mother worked and so did my grandfather and he was 70 when I was born and he passed away in 1954 and he was 82 and I was 12. Lost my Mother in 1988 and my step dad also in 1988 . So being an only child I had a good childhood and growing up in a small town of 2000 people and it has grown to 4000 maybe more today was very nice and still have all my high schooll girlfriends and a cousin up home who I keep in touch with and see when I am able to go up there which was last year.

        1. How wonderful you were able to stay in touch with childhood friends. There is a lot to be said about living in a small town. No siblings made you the center of their world. Sounds like a lot of memories and life lessons are stored in your basket of the past. I currently live in a town of 1,200. Everybody knows everybody. I bet it was like that for you growing up. So glad you like my story. Thank you for your response.

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