Monday, March 23, 2009

Did you ever think you'd say...? Part 2

Yes, there are many things we never imagined ourselves saying or doing. And then there are words that come out of our mouths which seem to make sense to us (unlike "poopie" which was discussed last column). Until they are examined at close range. We parents - we adults, regardless of our parenting status - can utter the darndest things.

When Blake was home this past Christmas, we ran into some old family friends who had not seen him for at least 10 years. They exclaimed, as we all are wont to do: "Wow! Look at you! You got so big and grown-up!" Later on Blake commented, "Why do older people always say that?! Of course I grew up... did they actually think I'd stay a kid forever?" And his observation made me ponder, yes, why do we say those kinds of things?

All adults are guilty of crying out, "Oh, Sam! I can't believe how tall you are!" We may not have seen someones child in years or maybe just months. And it seems a natural observation to make, for in our mind's eye they are frozen at toddlerhood, or maybe third grade, or perhaps as an awkward adolescent. Now imagine them spouting back: "I'm tall Mrs. Evans because you're just getting shorter with age." What?! It could happen.

Kids usually don't know quite how to respond to our preoccupation with their bodily maturation. They will smile politely, with maybe a hint of a blush. Just as we did when we were younger. As the adult, we mistake that slight pinkening of the cheeks as modesty or even pride. But if you think back to when you were the recipient of those verdicts of appearance, the hot cheeks may have been more accurately a result of the snippy comeback we were saying to ourselves. Like, "Geez lady, no duh!"

Can you imagine a kid making some of the following analysis of us: "Holy crap, Mrs. Evans! You've gotten so many wrinkles since I saw you last; you're really getting older;" "Look at that belly pouch Mr. Evans. Guess that's what your 40's will do;" or "I can't believe you're 50! How did that happen?"

And turnabout is fair play in other ways. We love to squeeze a chubby baby's cheeks or legs. So what if a 12 -year-old we hadn't seen since infancy grabbed onto our triceps and cooed, "Look at those chubby arms. They're so cute!"

Then there are the comments we make, innocently, that teens - probably girls in particular - take the wrong way. On the occasion of my daughter Jessie's 14th birthday I cried, "You're getting so big!"

"Big?!" she wailed. "Are you saying that I've gotten fat?"

"No! No! It's just an expression," I stammered. "You know... it just means you're not a little girl anymore... not my baby." And I can't win with these observations, because when I mentioned last week that it looked as though she was getting skinnier, she spat back the whole so-you-think-I-was-fat-before thing. "That's not what I was implying," I began and then just shrugged and stopped while I was ahead. Well, not ahead, but inserting foot into mouth more didn't seem appetizing.

It just seems impossible not to chirp to a 13-year-old boy that you didn't recognize him because he's turning into a young man. I was in good company with those sort of remarks during a recent baseball evaluation, when several of us moms lamented aloud that little boy's faces were morphing into men's before our very eyes.

"Is that Justin?;" "That can't be Chris, he's not that tall!;" and "Who is that? No! How can that be Ryan?"

Their faces begin to fill out, becoming more chiseled, less adorable and decidedly handsome. Suddenly, we parents have gone from patting a boy on top of his head, to patting his shoulder, to finally a light punch in the arm because the head and shoulders are head and shoulders above us. The objects of our gushing, prodding and disbelief chuckle inside while slowly backing away from the crazy old people.

Yes, of course, time marches on. Children grow up, grow older; while adults just do the growing older part.

I leave you with two quotes:

"It kills you to see them grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn't." ~Barbara Kingsolver

"There are only two things a child will share willingly - communicable disease and his mother's age." ~ Dr. Benjamin Spock

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