Here is an essay adapted from my soon-to-be-released book, GRANDKIDS AS GURUS: LESSONS FOR GROWNUPS.
Many of us learn about children. We read about parenting classes, about nursing, about potty training, about how to get kids to read. But for years I have been learning from children.
One Friday night, Anna, a babysitter, read “Good Night Moon” to my 2 1/2-year-old granddaughter Brooke. Anna had reminded Brooke to spit out the toothpaste, had washed Brooke’s hair, had changed Brooke into her pink striped pajamas. Anna tucked Brooke in and said, “All done. Mom’s home. I’m leaving. Good night.”
Brooke said, “You can’t leave. I need a gwown-up in here with me.”
On Saturday I played with Brooke in a shallow toddler pool. I pulled and pushed her on a kickboard, fetched the yellow foam noodle each time it popped off her belly, and taught her how to dive for rubber dinosaurs at the bottom. We frolicked for an hour, then my grandmotherly energy tanked. I said, “Susu’s tired. I’ll go sit on the edge and watch you from there.”
Brooke sobbed, “No! I need a gwown up in here with me.”
A 2 1/2-year-old knew that we need adults, and we need these grownups to be present, to pay attention.
On Sunday, we loaded a van with two grandparents, two parents, and four children under the age of seven. We packed books for the kids. We gave them stuffed animals to hold (or to throw at each other, it turned out). We doled out paper and crayons for drawing. Yet we forgot to lock the van’s windows. Soon the children giggled and squiggled as they buzzed up and whizzed down the windows from both sides of the back seat. Distracted from driving, their Dad said, “Ok, kids. Enough. Safety first.”
Creating order, setting limits, making ground rules, takes a grown up. We need that.
We drove to a farm with an ice cream stand. The children scattered. One bolted across mud to see the cows. One followed the cute bunnies. The other two climbed wet walls and forbidden fences. Their parents herded all four and led them to the ice cream window. Six-year-old Walker asked for the biggest cookies and crème cone, three scoops. His mom knelt beside him, held his hands, looked into his round eyes and whispered, “Oh, love, I’d like to invite you to make a different choice.”
I needed that grownup voice inside me that day. I too craved the biggest, sweetest, gooiest treat. I needed an internal adult voice, one of reason, an inner compassionate parent, “hey, sweetie, honey, maybe you could make a different choice, one that would be kinder to yourself, to your body.”
Now, during this election cycle, many of us want to throw tantrums, kick and stomp our feet, point fingers. What if, instead, or in addition, we challenge ourselves to be our own inner grownups? What if we pause and breathe before, or instead of raging, shouting, bullying, hating or hurting the “other?” What if we access the wiser, mature one within? When we, as individuals or in groups, lean toward choices not in our best interest or in the best interest of the country, maybe the responsible, sensible side of us could take our hands, and say, “Ok, kids, I’d like to invite you to make a different choice.” When we want the metaphoric biggest ice cream cone, or the loudest I-scream/you-scream/we all scream, what might our “I know better” self say?
Maybe, among many benefits, it would put safety first if we knew, as children do, that we need inner and outer qwownups in here with us.