Friday, November 26, 2004


I have had the grandchildren for an weekend stay and intend to contact the National Boxing Association as I now have the required experience for becoming a Referee. In fact, a bout between two heavyweights would be easier to monitor than a heated argument between two children. These particular two children are brother and sister, a few years apart in age, but the younger one definitely has more agility and speed in throwing a punch.

I can remember the arguments my own children used to indulge in. First, there was that fabulous piece of plastic china called the "Chocolate Bowl". Every morning, if cereal was served (and it was served daily, my son says, since the time my kids learned to pour), they got into an argument over just whose turn it was to use the Chocolate Bowl. Now, we had a blue bowl, a yellow bowl and a green bowl, but no one wanted those paltry colors. The only bowl worth eating out of was the brown one and they were willing to fight for the privilege.

Then, there was the famous Stairway Confrontation. Every child knows this one. If you meet a sibling face to face halfway up or halfway down a staircase, you have to stick out an elbow and punch him in the ribs, a slight little nudge that will remind him of his mortality and your superiority. This, of course, brings on a shoving match that can only be halted by a screeching mother or a death-defying tumble, whichever comes first.

Kids can argue without saying an intelligible word, as in the "Huh! Disagreement. The "Huh!" Disagreement requires two people, standing nose to nose. One says, "Huh!" The other, insulted, of course, becomes even louder and replies, "Huh!" The first speaker, encouraged by this, leans closer and loudly declares, "HUH!"

Since there are no words to describe the despicable insults contained in that last "HUH!", the second speaker throws caution to the winds and shoves the first speaker backward. Then, the melee becomes intense, unless halted by intervention of one kind or the other.

Mothers today are fond of giving kids "Time Out". I tried that with my granddaughter this weekend and she did sit very quietly in her chair, but when I turned around and peeked at her, she was sticking her tongue out at me. Sometimes "Time Outs" involve a child being sent to his or her room, which is really harsh punishment, since most rooms these days are equipped with televisions, video games and what have you.

The old woodshed is a thing of the past. If you paddle your child today, he or she may threaten to call the police, or if not, a stranger may do so. Corporal punishment is not in vogue these days. I have to admit, though, I did paddle my children when they were little. They used to call me "The Black Hand of Doom". An occasional spat on the rear did wonders to restore order! That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thinking back, I wish I could have relaxed more with my boys. I wish I would have just sat in a chair, reading stories and singing songs. But someone had to do the work. Someone had to cook and do the dishes. And someone had to supervise those arguments, wipe up those spills, dole out the cough syrup. Sometimes I was like a Master Sergeant, organizing the troops, calling out the drill. And my recruits were not always cooperative.

I can't help but think my grandchildren are a little spoiled. Every toy they want seems to cost close to or more than a hundred dollars. But I will have to admit they are smart, able to understand more about computers and cars and technology than ever before and at a younger age. When my kids wanted to play ball, they went out in an empty field and played. I stayed in the house, glad they were occupied, enjoying a brief respite from mothering. Today, the kids have to wear uniforms to play ball, mothers drive them to the fields, and stand there cheering or moaning as the case may be. I'm old-fashioned enough to be bored stiff by Little League games. They'll just have to learn sportsmanship without me.

I like children, but I don't like them enough to spend 24 hours a day with them. They can have 22 hours of my day, but I claim at least a couple of hours to be an adult. My granddaughter loves to play cards. During her visit, we have played every variety of card game imaginable and some that defy imagination, which she herself concocted. After several hours of "FISH" and "GOLF", I am tired of calling Spades "Shovels, and Clubs "Four Leafed Clovers". My mind is numb. I am more jellyfish than human.

I don't know which is worse, the games or the periodic fights. Games that come with 10,000 little pieces and must be gathered into little piles and set into little squares, with kids knocking over the piles and climbing over the board, deciding who is first, debating over the rules, etc. , is almost more than any doting grandmother can bear.

When their mother finally arrives to take them home, a feeling of relief like a tidal wave on a tropical beach sweeps over me. They drive away, after collecting their clothes, their toys, their pillows, and other paraphernalia and off they go, leaving me alone at last. I am drained of energy, as though I have just survived all four of Florida's 2004 hurricanes.

Then they throw me kisses from the car and promise to come back and my heart melts again. I must rest up, because they meant it. They will be back and I'll be happy to see them. It's sometimes pure torture, but like people suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome, I seem to love my torturers.