Good Role Models In Small Packages (tf)

I used to be a kid and I have an excellent memory. So I recall it all. The Good. The Bad. And the extremely Ugly. Most days as a child contain a bit of all three. That was part of the fun of being a child. That mix of highs and lows that would jar the boredom out of you at the most unexpected moments…..sending you off into the unknown….and frequently sending you back home with bumps and bruises and ripped pants at the knee, with adrenal glands empty and the child equivalent of a story that a drunk tell and re-tells from his bar stool. The kind of story that gets better and better as the years go by, albeit perhaps less and less true. There are times when I wish I was a kid again. And then there are times when I think that viewing this world through the eyes of, say, an 8 year old, might paralyze me. Things move so much faster now. The unknown has morphed from thrilling to scary. Bumps and Bruises are not rites of passage anymore, but something you might call in a social worker to check into. The meaning of the word “innocence” has changed over the last 30 to 40 years. And kids are not permitted to be explorers anymore… least not the kind allowed to venture further than front door sight-lines. We script our kid’s lives. Play-dates are written on the calendar in advance. We used to wander the neighborhood and ask if “Joey can come out and play” (we called it “calling on Joey”). Unheard of today. Without an appointment you’d never get past the front stoop.

Still, it’s not all bad to be a kid today. Nuns are no longer allowed to beat you up. With Ipods in their ears, kids never again are trapped in the car forced to listen to Mom or Dad’s unhip music. Social networking is much easier. We used to get 4 TV channels. Kids now get 400. We used to get grounded and hate it. Kids today get grounded and spend all their time in their room with their computer and cell phone, which is exactly what they’d be doing if they weren’t grounded. The only way to really punish a kid these days is to take their electronics away….but if you’re not careful a kid will slip downstairs under cover of darkness and use yours. It’s a constant cat and mouse game, and these days kids know who the mice are.

And then of course there are the Grandparents.

I was born too late. I have memories only of my Dad’s father, passing out silver dollars from his sick-bed, which had been set up in his Carbondale kitchen. I remember my Dad shaving him. I remember being scared. Grandpop looked so white. So frail. Like a ghost. Soon he was gone. I don’t remember him dying…only that the trips to his kitchen ended. No more silver dollars.

My own father passed away a year ago. But my kids still have 3 doting grandparents who spoil them relentlessly and allow them to do all sorts of things they’re not allowed to do at home. Like eat limitless cookies and make all sorts of messes they’re not required to clean up. Plus, my Mom and my wife’s parents are always slipping my girls cash. For a good grade or an upcoming event or just because that’s what grandparents do. They love unconditionally and want only to see smiles……which is just what they see. My kids adore them all.

It’s a late night for regrets I know. I look back on my own childhood and have a few, but I was raised the right way by loving parents who sacrificed untold amounts. As a parent, all I do right comes from them. What I do wrong I must hang on myself. But parents grow too.

I do wish I had known my grand-parents though. I wish I was born earlier or that they could have died later. I would love to think back on those times when they spoiled me…..and smiled that goofy smile at me that grandparents always seem to wear when their grandkids are around. If I had one do-over….this would be it.

Time to go now. Grandparents are coming over to celebrate a birthday. A certain 9-year-old. I don’t know which smile will be bigger.

–Tom Flannery

~ by admin on February 20, 2011.

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