It’s Mother’s Day! But, even though MY mother departed this planet long ago, I still reflect on her kindness for not having killed me when she had the chance—or at the very least, for not having let my father do it.
Regardless, I received an email from a long time reader, a mother who is ninety-one years old TODAY, asking me if I would repeat a piece that I wrote a few years ago concerning the things that children say.
I took a trudge back into my archives to find that particular item. I found it; but it was difficult to read due to formatting differences between the old system and the new one. WordPress likes to format things its OWN way.
Who knew? I didn’t; but I do NOW! I definitely have some work to do in cleaning up those archives, which I’ll get to whenever I have a chance.
Anyway, here is that piece. I cleaned up the formatting, shortened it a bit, and reworded the timing context so that it makes sense to people reading it TODAY.
The first incident—and definitely my all-time favorite—occurred at a local Burger King in the midst of approximately 40 other customers as they inhaled their lunches in order to get back to work on time.
A young mother (in her 30s) and her two children (a boy named Zack and a girl named Emily) sat at the table next to mine. Mommy was a bit pensive about something. But, Emily wasn’t.
She was busy explaining to an elderly woman seated one table over—in great detail, mind you—that she was in FIRST grade but had the day off because of teacher meetings.
Also, according to Emily, her little brother, Zack, was ONLY 4-years old and went to pre-school, but ONLY in the morning.
The children were well behaved. Emily, was as cute as it gets, the very definition of precocious, and had NOT a shy bone in her body. She was a veritable fountain of information. And, it didn’t take a lot of probing to get her to share it, either.
Whatever was on mom’s mind, she perked up a bit as soon as a man came in and joined them. He was daddy. No, I’m not a mind reader; Emily gave it away, not to mention the fact that Zack gave him a hug.
“How’d your mother’s doctor appoint go this morning?” he asked his wife. From the look on her face, he had to know that all was NOT well. But she didn’t get the chance to answer him, at least not immediately.
At this point, it’s critical for you to know two things. First, it seemed that Emily had overheard mommy talking to mom-mom about the preliminary results of her doctor’s appointment.
And second, MOMMY assumed, even though Emily was present during her talk with mom-mom, that Emily wouldn’t actually understand ANY of it. BIG mistake!
Mommy was correct, of course, Emily DIDN’T understand. But, like many young children—especially the precocious ones—she HEARD what she DOES understand.
And, if you are a grandparent and YOU do NOT want your sweet, intelligent, little granddaughter to tell perfect strangers what’s wrong with your health, DON’T tell MOMMY about it in front of your granddaughter.
Just say that you’ll explain everything LATER… you know, when Emily’s not sitting in the room.
But, Emily’s mom-mom didn’t follow this advice. And, as soon as daddy asked mommy the question, Emily’s head snapped to the left as her 7-year old beautiful blue eyes fixated on her daddy’s face.
The child’s words brought EVERY grown-up within a radius of about 10-feet of her voice to an abrupt, STUNNED, laugh-stifling silence as she told her daddy what the doctor had said.
With an air of seasoned professional empathy, in a perfectly resolute and calm demeanor, and with the complete diagnostic assuredness of a highly experienced physician, Emily said, “Daddy, mom-mom’s doctor told her that she has a cute vagina.”
Daddy QUICKLY looked down and slightly away from Emily—I swear that I saw a droplet of blood as he bit into his lower lip to keep from laughing. Mommy perked up IMMEDIATELY!
Quick thinking and no longer pensive, she smiled and calmly said; “Are you sure, sweetheart? I thought the doctor told mom-mom that she was having some acute angina.”
Anyway, mommy explained it all to Emily and, with the exception of a couple of rather overweight customers who had to be resuscitated: they couldn’t re-catch their breath, everything ended well.
Mommy and daddy (especially MOMMY) deserved a lot of credit. They kept their cool without making Emily feel like she had done anything wrong.
Emily’s precociousness struck me as refreshing! For such children, knowing ALL their body parts by their anatomically correct names is a cakewalk.
And, I’m betting that mommy probably had THAT talk with Emily back when she was around THREE! But, of course, I’m just assuming.
The incident also reinforced what I’ve written about several times: young children—even the really smart ones—HEAR what THEY understand, which is often DIFFERENT from what we well-meaning adults actually say.
It also explains why little 5-year-old Jeremy Rhodes thinks that the Blessed Mother is full of grapes. “Hail Mary, full of grapes…,” he prays. The child’s NO dummy! He knows what grapes are; he’s been full of them a few times, himself. But GRACE? A GIRL? No way!
As well, it explains why many years ago, TV and radio personality, Charles Osgood wrote about a 6-year-old’s recital of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for Richard Stands…”
Nor can I forget 8-year-old Carla who was having some pizza with her aunt at the Concord Mall here in New Castle County, Delaware. Carla was worried about her pop-pop; he was at the eye-doctor having his cadillacs removed.
And, several years ago, 6-year-old Jacob told people that his mother’s “lectric girdle” made the lights go out in their house and she couldn’t finish making his pancakes!
I even have my own treasure-trove of verbal misinterpretations. When I was six years old, for example, my father began taking me to 11:30 AM mass every Sunday.
At the end of the mass, the congregation always sang a hymn in honor of the Blessed Mother. And, by God, I ALWAYS sang along. Only MY words were different from the actual words.
The hymn’s refrain was “Oh Mary conceived without sin, pray for us.” But, I sang—LOUDLY and CLEARLY—“Oh Mary can SEE without SEEIN.”
Oh, I KNEW about “sin.” Catholics learn from early ages that we’re nothing buy unworthy sinning scum. But, at the age of six years? CONCEIVED! Who knew?
Have a wonderful Mother’s Day, Martha. You’re younger at heart than some people half your age!