Kids can flat out scare the crap out of you.
Just so we are on the same page, I’m not just talking about when they run into the street without looking because they are chasing an errant soccer ball, or even when you find them trying to stick a fork in an electrical outlet. Those are definitely heart stoppers, but I’m talking about a different kind of scared. Honestly, maybe scare is too strong a word. Perhaps surprise, flabbergast, or shock might be better choices.
What I am talking about are the things they say that carry connotations that they don’t even understand. And, when you get right down to it, we’re all guilty of it as some point in our lives. I can clearly recall an incident where I said something that caused my father to raise an eyebrow one day. If I am recalling his facial expression correctly, I think it was something along the line of “crap, how do I handle this one?“
In my particular instance, it was during a fairly hot summer when central air was a pipe dream for us poor folk, and the only reason we even had a window unit was due to the fact that my sister had fallen and broken her collarbone. Since she had to wear an itchy, bulky brace, and she was only about 6, we had to keep her cooled down lest she toss and turn, which would only serve to aggravate the fracture. As I recall, that particular summer the entire family pretty much slept in the living room where the window unit was installed.
But, back to my jaw dropper… I was around 10, so I hadn’t quite entered puberty, but was kind of on the edge of that slippery slope, so I suspect my parents were already on high alert and looking for the first signs of pimples, wet dreams, and a sudden lack of “cooties” in the opposite sex. I think that’s probably what made my comment such a shocker for my dad. We were sitting in the living room, watching TV, and out of the clear blue I announced that I felt like I needed to “take a cold shower.”
My father jerked his head toward me and stared like I had just grown antlers. The reality of it is, I was hot and sweaty. I had been outside playing with friends a bit earlier, riding my bike and all that jazz, and unfortunately that window unit simply wasn’t keeping up with the heat that day. Of course, a few years later I came to understand the underlying significance of the “cold shower,” and it suddenly dawned on me why I had damn near given my father a heart attack.
Well, just the other day, I had an opportunity to experience something similar, and if my dad was still with us, I’m sure he would be laughing his a$$ off. Oh, who am I kidding… He’s probably standing behind me right now, doubled over in laughter… I just can’t see him.
So, anyway, on with my bout of heart palpitations… Whenever the weather is nice I walk the offspring to school. It’s a good way to spend some quality time with the kid sans distractions like Nintendo DS, TV, and in recent months her discovery of the telephone. It’s also a good way to get some exercise. A leisurely walk to the school, then after I drop her off I take the long way home and pick up the pace to get the blood flowing and burn some calories.
As it happens, during the week in question the kid was on spring break, so we made it our habit to walk to the post office each morning to check the PO Box, and drop off any mail we might need to get out that day. That way we stayed in the habit of walking and still got some exercise. As usual, we would chit-chat about stuff, most of which I don’t really understand, but I listen anyway – apparently there’s some kid named after a northwestern state who sings on TV, and she’s friends with some guys who are brothers in a band, and some guy in that same band named Rick or Nick or something like that is really cute. Plus, if you log on to something-or-another-giggly-wonky pets dot com, you can have a pet monster and get points or some such.
You know what I’m talking about… The stuff that is important in a 9-year-old kid’s life. And, like a good parent you listen and do your best to interact so that the child understands that they are important.
So… On the day in question, the short person was finished telling me about which of her friends in school was “in love” with which of the brothers in the band that the “state kid” knows. She was quiet for a bit, then moved on to one of her quests for information about the origins of her parents. Kids will do this every now and then… Stuff like, “When did you meet Mommy?” and “Why do you and Mommy do that kissy-kissy thing when she leaves for work?”
Typical kid questions.
Well, this particular quest started innocently enough by her asking how to pronounce the name of a particular local Real Estate firm we happened to pass by during our walk. I told her, then added that her grandmother, (my mother, who unfortunately passed long before the offspring was born), had worked there a long time ago.
This, of course, led to, “When did she work there?”
To which I answered, “Oh, a long time. Probably about 25 years ago.”
“25 years! That’s a really long time ago.”
“Yep. I think it was probably even before I met your mother.”
After a few seconds spent walking along in silence with her pondering the sidewalk ahead of us, she asked, “How old were you when you met Mommy?”
“Well,” I said. “Let me see… I think I was 23.”
“23? How old are you now?”
“Are you 48?”
“I think I’m 47.”
“You don’t know for sure?”
“I’m pretty sure it’s 47.”
“How can you not know for sure how old you are?”
“When you get to be my age, it really isn’t that important. But, yes, I’m 47.”
“Okay, so you were 23 when you met Mommy?”
“I think so,” I told her, then did some quick math aloud. “Let’s see, I’m pretty sure I turned 24 very shortly after we met. Then, we moved in together and a few months later we celebrated my 25th birthday at the little apartment where we lived… I definitely remember that for sure. So, yeah, I had to have been 23 when we first met.”
Kids minds working the way they do, she abandoned the whole age issue itself and asked, “What did Mommy get you for your 25th birthday?”
Now dear readers, please remember that E K and I were relatively poor back then, as I outlined in the “Mahwage” blog entries. So the love of my life made homemade stir-fry – yes, I know, I’ve pointed out that she doesn’t cook. But, when I can convince her to get into the kitchen, she makes the best stir-fry on the planet. Topping off the meal as a centerpiece of the birthday celebration – foodwise, at any rate – was a big, decorated chocolate chip cookie. This was, of course, followed by the crowning jewel, that being “adult activities”. These shall remain unwritten. Suffice it to say, they also remained unspoken, but in that moment were certainly remembered fondly, which I think added to my shock.
I shrugged and answered the offspring’s question. “A big cookie.”
My kid stopped dead in her tracks and yelped, “A Big Pussy?”
I almost dropped the grocery bag of sundries we had picked up from Walgreens a couple of blocks back. My heart jumped into my throat, my eyes bugged, and I spun around to look at her with what I am certain was horrified shock on my face.
“Cookie…” I replied. “She gave me a big chocolate chip cookie that said happy birthday on it.”
“Oh,” the offspring said with a nod. “I thought you said she gave you a pussycat.”
Upon hearing her explanation, I was able to start breathing again.
Like I said, I’m sure the departed souls of my parents are having a good laugh over this one. I think my saving grace in this instance is that we weren’t in the middle of a crowded store with dozens of onlookers.
But, just to be on the safe side, I think maybe I’ll take the kid to have her ears checked before I answer any more questions…
More to come…