Hurt, or Mad?

We were finishing up our dessert after a wonderful meal, which had included the Lovely Lady’s delicious ham along with her amazing cheesy potatoes, when the back door opened with a rush.  The wailing outside drove out all the calm and quiet we were enjoying as we sat back to relax.  We could only assume that a visit to the emergency room was imminent, but the mother of the grandchild quickly calmed our anxieties.  “I’ll take care of it,” she said quietly, and headed for the door.  The crying increased in volume until she appeared to the child right outside the door.  “What’s wrong?” she asked, all businesslike.  The sobbing was interrupted at intervals as the words came pitifully.  “He (sniff) hurt (wail) my (bawl) feelings (howl)!  The crying ramped up in volume as the necessity for words lessened.  It was a good thing too, because the laughter in the dining room began an instant later. 

We should have kept quiet, because we missed the best part.  In her role as a peacemaker, his mom turned to the other young boy, sitting defiantly on his tricycle just down the sidewalk.  “What did you do?” asked Mom.  That wasn’t the question this young man wanted to answer.  He wanted to tell his reason first, and did.  “Well, he’s stressing me out!”  Oh, imagine the uproar that retort would have initiated indoors if we had heard it!  The idea of these two children, four and five years old, talking more like young adults than little kids about what their motivations were, is just too funny.  In a moment, the injured party, deciding that he wasn’t going to receive any reparations, declared adamantly, “I want to go home NOW!”

Two things strike me about the repartee and ensuing pandemonium, the first being just how mothers seem to know when there is blood and real pain involved, or when it’s just emotion and anger being expressed.  I’m told it has something to do with the tone of the crying, but as a father and now a grandfather, I never have been able to tell the difference.  I’m also reminded of another story, which my Mother-in-law tells.

It was some time ago, when the Lovely Lady had yet to achieve all the attributes which attracted me to her during her teenage years.  As a little girl, she was a prime target of her older brothers for teasing, since she usually rewarded them with a wonderfully satisfying display of howls and tears.  For example, there was the time when they and a neighbor boy buried the little girl’s bicycle in a puddle of mud…But I’m getting off track.  On this particular occasion, the underlying cause of which has been lost in the dim dark past, her mom and dad were inside the house, with windows open to let the breezes flow through.  All of the sudden, more was flowing through than the breezes, as a monstrous caterwauling arose out on the front porch.  Dad was up in a second, ready to rescue his precious sweet girl from injury and pain, but Mom put out her hand and said, “Just a minute.”  Then she called out from where she sat, “Are you hurt or mad?”  The two-syllable reply came loudly and tearfully from outside the door, “Maaaa-aaad!”  Moms just know, somehow.

The other thing that struck me about the angry exchange between my grandsons is how much like sponges children are.  That conversation didn’t come out of a four-year old’s brain, nor a five-year old’s head.  It came from an adult world.  We talk about stress and about how others affect the way we feel and all the while, the children are listening, filing information away for a lifetime of reactions.  We watch programs on television and don’t take the time to discuss the conversations we hear there with the children and they take it to heart.  Moms and Dads, Grandmas and Grandpas watch the garbage without contradiction to the falsehoods, so that must mean it is true and okay to act in that manner.  Admittedly, our children also pick up things from friends and neighbors, and even many of the things we do want them to learn are applied incorrectly in their heads.  It’s up to us to help correct that error and to model love and tolerance with each other.

The boys will learn to get along with each other, something they do often with great success already.  They’ll learn to put things in perspective, figuring out what makes the other one tick.  Along the way, once in awhile they’ll push each other’s buttons a bit, just to get a reaction.  It’s an age old story; one which I have lived through myself.

And, I haven’t yelled at a brother in many years, so I’m pretty sure there’s hope for these boys.

“An angry man opens his mouth, and shuts his eyes.”
(Cato the elder~Roman statesman~234 BC-149 BC)

“Oh, be careful little ears what you hear.”
Oh, be careful little ears what you hear.
For the Father up above, is watching down in love.
Oh, be careful little ears what you hear.”

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