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Although I no longer make what one would consider a traditional New Year’s Resolution, I try at the beginning of each new milestone to do some soul-searching about the year I’ve just lived, and to ponder exactly what I hope to accomplish both physically and spiritually in the year ahead. As I write this, I’ve just spent several days with my son’s family, which includes two small people (a.k.a. grandkids) who managed, in a very short span of time, to teach me a lot about looking at life through a child’s eyes.
I don’t know about you, but I find it impossible to spend time with youngsters and not remember what it was like to view the world from their vantage point. When my granddaughter, Jencie, was telling me that she didn’t think it was fair for people to believe boys are braver than girls, not only did the 1960s feminist in me perk up and pay attention, the 21st century grandma in me did too.
Jencie’s actual thought process and her remark weren’t meant so much as political commentary, as a plea for us to allow her to do something dangerous. She wanted to climb on a treacherous seawall, and we didn’t want her to. There were several teenage boys poised perilously atop the jagged boulders, and Jencie thought we refused to allow her access because of her gender. We quickly explained to her that our refusal had nothing to do with gender and everything to do with safety, and we all assured her that girls can be every bit as brave as boys.
This is an area of childhood psychology that definitely emerged after I’d raised my kids, so while I have the utmost respect for anyone trying to help his or her young one grow into a healthy adult who views his or her abilities not in terms of gender, but more in terms of desire and capability – I’m certainly not the poster child for how to lead the way.
Heck, I still can’t seem to find my voice if a man is questioning my authority, so I don’t feel I have much to offer when it comes to counseling a young person about standing his or her ground, much less going against the grain. I do, however, hope my grandkids will always feel capable of living an authentic life. And I realize much of this has to do with how they view the lives of the adults they encounter, so I definitely try to be a decent (notice I did not say “good”) role model!
In fact, my son spends a great deal of time reminding his mother (that would be me) to watch her language (it’s hard to believe I was never a sailor) when she’s within earshot of her grandchildren (those would be mine). I’m rarely guilty of what is considered really foul language, but I have to admit I’ve been known to respond with a “no s—!” or “you’re f—— kidding me!” when someone conveys amazing or startling information.
Since I have been reflecting more than usual, it’s no surprise I had a moment recently where I remembered the first time someone taught me about the consequences of swearing. They also taught me a lot about just how unfair life can be.
I wasn’t much older than my four-year-old grandson, Sean. I might have been five – six at the most – when I got one of those lessons that sticks with you (for better or worse) for the rest of your life.
It was a golden, late summer day (back in the day) when scabby knees and missing teeth were as much a part of our uniform as our striped tee-shirts, cotton shorts and bare feet. I spent every waking hour outside either riding a bike, roller skating (not well, which explains the knee problem), climbing a tree, or playing any sport that a developing brain and body could comprehend.
On this particular day all of the neighborhood kids were playing baseball in the Monahans’ backyard. Francie Monahan was one of those older girls (she might have been eight or nine) who didn’t take to me because I could get mouthy if she suggested doing something I wasn’t keen on. Our paths didn’t cross often, but it seemed whenever they did, some sort of drama would ensue.
Since I didn’t want to spend the afternoon on my own, I decided to swallow my pride and let Francie be the boss of me for at least a couple of hours. Everything went swimmingly until I actually managed to connect bat to ball and score for my team. To Francie, this was the ultimate insult. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but at some point Francie felt her wrath warranted hitting me on the head with the bat. (There are members of my family who still use this as an excuse for my behavior!)
When hit upon the head with a baseball bat, it’s safe to say the primal brain definitely takes over. This was absolutely the first time I can remember pain painting my vocabulary with such a colorful brush. Without stopping to consider the consequences, I blurted out a hearty “DAMN”! Followed closely by a shower of tears and righteous indignation.
I faintly remember Mrs. Monahan stomping down the porch steps and yelling. Initially, I thought her tone was directed at Francie. How wrong could I have been? The next thing I knew, I was being yanked into the kitchen and having my mouth washed out with soap. In that moment I got my first taste (literally) of just how unfair life can be. It was the one and only time I’ve ever had my mouth washed out, but it was certainly not the last time I would face this life-altering reality.
Remembering that incident made me wonder: What would life be like if it really was fair? Would that be better? Would we learn more, behave in more loving ways, appreciate every moment, and be awestruck when truly good things happen? Or is it the adversity that brightens, defines and brings joy to the moments in our lives when everything is going our way?
As I was pondering this somewhat hefty philosophical tidbit, I realized my grandson was tugging at my arm for attention.
“Grandma, grandma,” he chirped in that little voice any mother of sons remembers with heart-fluttering fondness. “I need to ask you something!” I turned to Sean to let him know he had my full attention. “What do you want to ask me, sweetie?” Sean sighed, wiggled a bit, put his hands above his head and said: “Do you want the good news, the really good news, or the very best news ever?”
For 2014, I think I’ll go for the very best news ever. How about you?