Tuesday, July 25, 2006


There are two types of children...the Roamers and the Clingers. I don't know which is worse. The Roamers will be playing in the yard one minute, and will be nowhere in sight the next. One dons their running shoes to care for the Roamers, and the roaming habit extends from infancy to adulthood. You can think your teenager is at Point A, and you will find out....years later, when he is about forty...that he was at Point Q, enjoying a wild party with his friends.

The Clingers are a different sort. They are usually compliant and obedient, at least outwardly. However, they have a habit of standing as close to you as possible, leaning over your shoulder and staring at whatever you are doing, using their limited reading ability to peruse whatever it is you are reading or writing, studying it intently, even if you are looking at something you really don't want a child to see.

It does no good to suggest politely that a Clinger go elsewhere and pursue something childish, as children are supposed to do. He or she will disappear for a moment, but before you can blink an eye, they will be back again, edging even closer to you, finding your pursuits far more interesting than anything you might suggest.

My nephew Laorin...which is a funny way to spell Lorin....was a favorite of mine. He grew into a steady, likeable man, the backbone of his large family, a good husband and the father of several children. When he was small, he was a blonde haired Huck Finn of a boy, with a shock of tousled hair and a spattering of freckles. He was also a Sniffer.

Laorin sniffed constantly, whether from an allergy or pure enjoyment of the sound. And, on top of being a Sniffer, he was a Clinger. This is a nervewracking combination and Laorin never let up on his pursuit of some way to practice his techniques.

Laorin had a certain cadence to his sniffing, a rythmn, a musical beat that one might tap his foot to accompany. However, if the moment came when the sniff didn't come, when the musical cadence was disrupted, it was disconcerting. One waited and waited for the sniff, which Laorin would withhold until the moment the person to whom he was clinging paused in their task and turned to snap at him. At this very moment, the sniff would continue.

Not all Clingers lean over your shoulder. Some have figured out the knack of winding themselves around your leg. One of my grandsons can wind himself like a human corkscrew around my son's leg. There he is, twisted and clinging, his snowwhite hair and pixie face emerging at my son's thigh.

Some very young toddlers are Screamers. This is the ultimate pits, especially if a Screamer is sitting in the seat behind you on an airplane or a movie theater. A Screamer's command of high soprano is amazing, definitely operatic without the musical notes. They do not scream constantly, but like to wait until things are quiet before emitting this earth-shattering, earsplitting screech. It can be caused by anything, the sight of a bug, the sight of a brother or sister, the loss of a gumball. There's no telling. It is guaranteed to raise the hairs on the back of the neck and cause you to jump at least two feet in the air.

Some Screamers keep screaming for long periods of times. My granddaughter screamed her way through a large department store once, angry because I could not afford the toy she wanted. She was two years old at the time and several shoppers glared at me as though they thought I had brutalized her in some way. Actually, I had offered her every other toy on the planet, a trip to Disney World in the near future, and a basket full of candy, but nothing would deter her screams. There was nothing to do but leave the store, a disgruntled shopper with this open-mouthed, tear-stained very vocal toddler trailing along with me.

Another of my favorite brand of children is the Sports Star. Yes, indeed, they are a loveable breed. They are dressed in the correct costume, little football outfits, little baseball outfits, or little Soccer shorts. I have gotten up at dawn to prepare for a Soccer Game, when I would have rather have been nestled in my bed. It is almost always chilly, damp, drizzling and miserable outside. We gather up the snacks, the water bottle, and every other item needed and off we go to the field, which is peppered with autos containing other miserable souls like myself. The only ones enjoying themselves are the Coaches, who always have outstanding players in their families, and the Soccer Moms, who believe they have outstanding players in their families.

It's supposed to give a child confidence and teach good sportsmanship, so he will stop thumping his sister when she wins at cards. I'm not sure it does anything besides freeze the audience, but I'm not complaining unless I'm the one chosen to attend the games. What do I know about sportsmanship? I play Free Cell on a computer, where sportsmanship isn't needed....you can only cheat yourself.

However, I am an expert on children, having grown up among so many and raised so many myself. I am familiar with the Clingers, the Roamers, the Sniffers, the Screamers, the Whiners. There is hardly a child I have not encountered, some of them causing traumatic and incurable stress, like the twins in my Cub Scout troop, who simultaneously bounced to the ceiling and came crashing down on my dust-laden knickknacks.

As an experienced mother, I could tell you horror stories about my sons....the one who made a rocket and set fire to my ironing; the toddler who cooked eggs on the stove, then transferred his culinary interests to the clothes dryer, so that the family woke up to a smoke-filled burning frying pan and a dozen eggs spinning in the dryer; the ones who put our pet goldfish in Cokes and drank them, the beloved grandson who lived with us and tumbled out of my car into the center of a busy highway! Oh, yes, there are tales I could tell!

But, now that they all approach Middle Age, I look at them intently and wonder, "Who are these strangers?" Where, I ask myself, are my little ones....with their lively lifestyles and their varying faults? They are gone forever....and I did it myself, without the help of Super Nanny and her Naughty Stool! But I miss them! Yes, I do......warts and all!