"Children begin by loving their parents (and grandparents); as they grow
older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them."
- Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wilde
The other day my granddaughter and I were having a discussion about our
family, and she made the following observation:
"My mom and my dad, my sister and my brother and me - we're the pretty side
of the family."
Silence, until curiosity got the better of me.
"And what about me?" I asked.
Without missing a beat, my little diplomat announced, "You're the nice side
of the family."
If you can't win them all, I suppose "nice" is a good side, too. Of course,
her left-handed compliment ran a tad hollow, since the day before she had
gone around my house picking up one knick-knack after another and asking,
"Can I have this when you die?"
Strike two. I was beginning to feel like my late uncle who used to say, "God
gives some people brains and the rest beauty, but it's terrible to be
cheated out of both."
My observant granddaughter gets her knack for cheerful insulting from her
"pretty" Daddy. Once, when he was about her age and I had to be away from
home for a week, Julie, the children's favorite baby sitter, came in after
school to care for them and prepare the evening meal. Julie was Italian. I'm
neither Italian nor, it appears, a very good cook. At least I should have
known better than to make lasagna my first day back in the kitchen. My son's
analysis of the meal went something like this:
"Mum, your lasagna isn't as good as Julie's. Maybe you could take lessons
"Her" was barely out of her teens. I'd been at the stove twice as long as
she'd been alive. Rather than take my culinary-expert son's advice, and risk
bruising my ego even more, I stopped making lasagna.
Meanwhile, back to my granddaughter, I comfort myself that I'm not the only
object of her assessment in matters of appearance. When she was about 5
years old, and her mother was in the advanced stages of pregnancy with her
sister-to-be, Miss Observation noticed another woman with a similar,
protruding front. Unlike her mother, however, this woman was in the advanced
stages of age. Misunderstanding the parameters of female fertility, or
perhaps from excitement about the new baby, my little one ran up to the lady
and exclaimed loud enough for the whole county to hear, "You're getting a
baby just like my Mommy!"
Fortunately, before I could die of embarrassment, I noticed the lady's
also-protruding hearing aid. Relief. She hadn't heard the comment at all,
and quickly embraced the child she thought was excited about seeing her.
Alas, as someone has noted, when our children are old enough not to say or
do anything in public to disgrace us, they have reached an age when the
things we do and say embarrass them. For example, when I first began to
write for publication I followed the perennial advice to "write about what
you know." What I knew was what I had experienced, which included raising my
But it didn't take long to discover my children weren't as excited about
seeing my name and theirs in print as I was. Today, in addition to not
making lasagna, I no longer write about my publicity-shy adult children,
unless I disguise them as someone else's child or a similar pseudonym. Their
offspring, however, are another story. My beauty-judging granddaughter will
be delighted to know I've just honored this recent request:
"Grandma, when are you going to write another story about me?"
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to seabara@aol. com.)
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