Monday, June 21, 2010

Will my eyes really freeze that way?

After a solid childhood of evil uncles and cousins, I learned the following:

  1. Your face will not freeze that way, no matter how hard you scrunch it.
  2. Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Mr. Hannukah, and leprechauns don't Massachusetts.  They have a secret hideout that cannot be known by any adult that every child knows but to which they cannot travel because, clearly, kids can't drive.  And thank God for that.
  3. You will not shoot your eye out.
  4. There's no such thing as zombies, ghosts, vampires, creatures, demons, monsters, fiends, goblins, or things. much fun is it to say something ludicrous to a child, with your best Steven Wright

and watch as they frown, bunch up their eyebrows, and say, "No, Daddy...really?"  No matter how ludicrous the line, there's some possibility that Daddy might be right...this time.  I like to think that this kind of teasing tests kids' logic a bit, maybe sniffs at their creativity.  Can the kids discern truth from BS, merely by comparing the truth offered to the reality they think they know?  Will their creative minds grasp at the kernel of truth within the line and run with it, following me to my Crazy Place?  True, repeating these lines too often might upset the kids, and make your wife say, "Jeez, will you cut it out already?" (not that I have any idea how that might sound).  Still seems worth it.

Daily conversation, though, sometimes unintentionally tests kids.  Grief experts have seen kids do some pretty strange things in order to cope with our euphemisms for death.  A good example is the boy who, after his mother died, exhibited really terrible behavior for a few months until one day, tearful, he came to his father, saying that he could no longer be "bad."  Further questioning revealed that a teacher had told him that his mother's death was awful, and that "only the good die young."

Other examples include:

  • promising something but not delivering.  (promise is a tough word to use).
  • telling them you'll let them do something "later" (that never comes).
  • "I'll break your leg" if you... - or- "Ah, jeez, Billy, I'm gonna kill you if you do that again."
The bottom line?  Because kids are concrete, we need to watch what we say, or be prepared to translate.  Pediatric textbooks say kids are not little adults;  even so, it's hard for us to remember.  We know how to throw a ball; we've been doing it for a long time.  It's just that it's hard to teach someone what is second nature to us already.

This post made me think about something that happened the other day.  My daughter Charlotte saw a clip from Jaws in which a swimmer grabbed her leg underwater, screaming in agony.  The clip was part of "The Today Show" that runs in the morning.  It took everyone by surprise, since Jaws doesn't usually run in the morning (though, true enough, some questionable content does run on the program, usually prompting us to turn off the TV during our search for weather in the morning).

Charlotte: What happened to that lady?
Me:  She had a really bad cramp in her leg. 
Charlotte (looking doubtful and hopeful at the same time) Really?
Me: Yeah, really.   Her leg hurt really badly.

Good thing my poker face works well when the situation swings the other way.  The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth doesn't always apply to real life.

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