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Children’s Rules

I recently asked a group of 7 and 8 year-old children a question. “If you could make one rule that everyone in the world had to follow, what would be your rule?” Most sat silently for a few seconds. “One rule that everybody follows at school and home and wherever they are,” I said.

Maddy* said, “Never do anything without permission.”

Katie, a girl of few words, didn’t hesitate to say, “Obey.” When I prodded her to explain she shook her head and said, “Just obey.”

Kylie needed only two words. “Follow directions.”

“Don’t be bad,” said Isaiah and then he elaborated. “Like don’t punch or say mean words or anything.”

Ellie said, “Don’t hit anyone and don’t say bad words.” She looked off into space. “Well, it’s okay for Mommas to say a bad word. Like if two parents got mad at each other, they could cuss. But not to kids.” I nodded. Ellie took a deep breath and then said, “But there’s another rule. If a kid sees a bully, she can tell a parent.”

“To not fight. If someone is nice, don’t be mean back to them. Momma says don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared. Be brave. That’s what I’d do,” Annie said.

Lannie said, “Always be nice.” I asked what nice meant. “You know, like help each other and say nice things.”

No doubt, these children’s rules come from their experiences. I can hear their teachers telling them to follow directions and their mothers saying they must obey. For those children who immediately thought of not fighting, I wondered if they’d recently made a fist and punched someone. And it’s interesting that two children put hitting someone and saying mean or bad words together.

I wondered what Maddy had done without permission, and I wondered if Ellie’s Momma had just explained to her that it’s okay for grown- ups to say bad words. I remember a time I dropped and spilled a gallon of milk on the kitchen floor and screamed a word that can’t be printed here. Then, like Ellie’s Mom, I tried to explain that sometimes adults say words, but it’s not okay for children.

What does the word nice mean? Certainly helping each other. Kind. Pleasant.  We adults often tell children, “Now be nice,” and we assume they know what it means.

These children’s rules can be grouped into a short list.

1. Obey

2. Follow directions

3. Don’t hit

4. Don’t say bad or mean words

5. Be nice

The most unique rule was William’s. He didn’t think about behavior, but instead had a whole different idea. “Everyday, everybody would get gold. Lots of gold. And they could spend it on whatever they want.” I asked how he’d spend his gold. “I’d buy 100 toys!” He raised both his fists high above his head three times to emphasize the toys he’d buy. “ Books! Blocks! Legos! Yeah, that’ll be great!” he said.

Yes, William, that would be great. I silently congratulated him on his choice of toys. And wouldn’t it be great if we adults followed children’s rules?


*Names changed


Once in a Lifetime

toonvectors-27123-140There is only one time in a girl’s life that it’s okay for her to show off her underwear.  And that’s where my young Grand is right now.  When Husband arrived home from work, I said to Elaine, “Pop’s home.  Let’s go to the door and greet him.”  She ran to him, hugged his knees, and said, “Pop, have you seen my panties?”  And then she pulled down her pants just enough to reveal her pink and white underwear.  Elaine is learning to use the potty.

What was my biggest clue that this young Grand was ready to be potty trained?  One day while visiting with me and when she wore a diaper, she stood still for just a few seconds and then asked, “Gran, do you have a clean diaper?” Then she ran to my bedroom and lay on the floor – the exact spot where I’ve laid her when I’ve changed her diaper for the past 2-½ years.

When a child is potty training, it’s also a time that potty talk is allowed.  By both children and adults, and we really should be discreet.  While Daughter and I ate lunch at a restaurant, I asked, “So is she pooing or just tinkling in the potty?”  Daughter chuckled, put her finger on her lips, and said, “Shhh, Momma.”  Then I realized that the people at a table beside us probably heard me.  Certainly not normal mealtime conversation.  I would’ve apologized and explained, but they never made eye contact while Daughter and I whispered about Elaine’s progress.  A few days later, Elaine’s older sister and I discussed the process of potty training, but that’s a conversation I’ll never share.

My Grand’s parents are the real teachers.  I follow their directions and am amused by the funny things Elaine says.  I helped her get situated on the potty, walked out of the bathroom, and then I hear her chant. “Tinkle, where are you?  Oh, tinkle, where are you?  Come out, tinkle!”  Eventually, it did.  When I praised her she asked, “Gran, do you have a chocolate for me?”  I’ll give my Grand a chocolate candy anytime to avoid changing her diaper.

Teaching a child to go to the bathroom in this day and time is drastically different from the days when my own two children were toddlers. Thank goodness! Then age two was the set-in-stone age when any sensible mother had her child out of diapers.  Cloth diapers – that had to be rinsed, soaked, washed, dried, and folded. Maybe all that work was the incentive for us mothers to encourage our children to use the potty.  Now we know that children don’t awake on their 2nd birthday with enough control of their bodies to feel the urge and make a beeline for the bathroom.  I remember wiping many messes off the floor and, looking back, I’m not sure who was in training.  My child or me?  I even set an alarm clock for every hour to remind myself to take my child to the bathroom.

I’ve learned through the years that there are as many ways to encourage a toddler to use the potty, as there are squares on a roll of toilet paper.   And one way is pretty panties.  Elaine is so proud of hers.  This, too, shall pass.


Acting Their Age

images My two sweet little Grands who were born during the summer of 2011 are two years old and they are typical toddlers.  They are learning to be independent and they mimic and they ask questions.

Early one morning when everyone except Dan and I was sleeping, he lined up three toy trucks, one behind the other.  He stacked wooden disks, the size of checkers, side-by-side in the bed of the dump truck.  When he pushed the truck across the floor, the disks rolled off.  I gathered the disks in my hand and said, “Look, Dan, lay these flat, on top of each other and they won’t roll.”  My Grand looked at me sternly, “No, Gen*,” he said.  Two more times he stacked the disks side and side and both times they rolled off the truck.  The fourth time, Dan pushed the truck with one hand and held the disks in the truck bed with his other hand.  “See, Gen,” he said.  “I do it!”  He did it his way.

Elaine sat quietly in her mother’s lap as her older brother and sisters, her parents, and I crowded around a laptop computer watching a slideshow of pictures from a recent family vacation.  She sucked her thumb on one hand and twirled her hair with the other hand.  Her eyes blinked often and slowly.  Then a picture of her sister, with eyes like saucers and arms and legs stretched wide as if she were flying, appeared on the screen.  “What on earth?”  Elaine yelled.  (The picture was snapped after Elaine’s father threw her six-year-old sister high in the air and just before her sister splashed into a swimming pool.)  What on earth?  Who says that?

“Agen,” Dan said.  Pat-a-cake again and again.  His chubby little hands pound the imaginary cake, and if he’d really held a cake, he’d flung it onto the ceiling, not thrown it in a pan.  He grabbed my finger.  “Band-aid?” he asked.  I assured him my finger was okay; the band-aid covered a small cut.  “Why” he asked.  And my answer led to another why and another and another.

“Baby Brumblebee.  Sing, Gen,” Elaine said.  I clasped my hands together and sang, “I’m bringing home a baby bumblebee.  Won’t my mother be so proud or me?”  Elaine put her hand on my mouth and said, “Stop, Gen!”  She pulled my hands apart.  “Brumblebee gone?” she asked.  I reminded her that it was a pretend bumblebee – not real.  “It sting you?”  she asked.  No, I assured her.  “Okay, sing, Gen!”  I clasped my hands and she clasped hers.  “Ouch, it sting me!”  Elaine shouted and threw her arms wide apart.  “Smash it, Gen!”  “I’m smashing up a baby bumblebee,” I sang.  Elaine sang along, slapping her hands together.  At the end of the song, Elaine asked, “Brumblebee, gone?”  Yes, until next time.

Oh, what fun to play with my two-year-old Grands!  Until he runs and she climbs.  Until they say, “NO!” when it’s time to wash their hands.  Until they have more questions than I have answers.  They are two years old and they’re acting their age.

*Gen—toddler talk for Gran.

Kids Still Say the Darndest Things


Remember Art Linkletter’s television program Houseparty and its segment, Kids Say the Darndest Things?  Or how about Bill Cobsy’s weekly TV program in the late ‘90s that was about the funny things kids say?  If anyone ever airs another show that lets children say what I think, I know a few youngsters who’d be perfect guests.  Some of my Facebook friends share their children’s comments, and I really do laugh aloud.

Joel, a first grader, asked his mother, “Do we have a copier at home?”

Mother:  No.

Joel:  Do you have one at work?

Mother:  Um, why do you want to know?

Joel:  Well, money is made on paper and you can copy what’s on paper.

How about this logical reasoning from another five year old?  “I spent all my money, can I buy some more?”

            Kenan was learning the beginning sounds of words.  He asked,  “Does tea, the drink, start with t, the letter?”
Mother: Yes.
Kenan: Awesome!
Kenan: Does Leah Beth (his new baby sister) start with a g’?
Mother: No.
Kenan: Oh, I thought it did because she’s a girl.
            Jonah, age four, pointed to his forehead and asked, “Mom, when I turn five is it called a fivehead?”  Another day, Mother said that her phone battery was almost dead.  Jonah asked, “Will it go to Heaven?”
            And then there’s Max.  When he was two, Max and his mother were looking at some photos of their friends and Max said, “I like the girls.”
Mother:  Yes, we have some pretty friends who are girls.
Max:  I like the naked ones.
            At age four, Max announced that he had a new pet that was small and black and sometimes ate dinner with him on his plate.

Mother: Oh, is your new pet a fly?

Max:  Yes!  And his name is Friendy and I don’t want you to kill him.

Mother:  Well, how will I know that it’s Friendy and not just some other housefly?

Max:  Because Friendy has nipples!

            When Max was five, he said, “I wish I were a tadpole instead of a boy.  Then I could swim more and not get ticks.”
            Travis, age 5, was engrossed in a television program when his mother told him it was time to turn off the TV.  Travis said, “But it’s a cooking show and it’s not over.  Please.”  Mother shook her head.  Travis said, “But I’m learning how to cook.”  Mother shook her head.  Travis tried one more time.  “But, Mom, you should watch too.  You might learn how to cook.”
            Sometimes long words are confusing.  Lou, age 3, saw a short brown twig on the ground and thought it was alive.  She said, “Look, there’s a catterputter.”  One rainy day, Richard asked to take his underbrella outside, and when he wanted binoculars he asked for beach-lookers.  Aaron asked to visit a friend who lived in a condominium.  “Can we go to Russell’s amphibian?”

Thanks, friends, for allowing me to share your kids’ gems.  The things they say would make great reality TV.  I’d set my recorder to watch Kids Still Say the Darndest Things every week.  Meanwhile, please continue to share -we all need a good laugh.