How Grandparents Learn
You would think after more than 20 years of being a grandmother I would have learned a thing or two, gained a little wisdom in life. As my eldest grandson, Michael, would say — when he was about six — “I might have been born at night, Nana, but not in a barn!”
He sorta got it, I guess.
So you lied???
It happened when Michael, our first grandchild, was about eight years old.
After he started public school, I picked him up every day and brought him home because he got out of school about the time I got off work.
One Friday afternoon I had a meeting to finalize our church ladies retreat across Houston. “Across Houston” might not mean much to someone not familiar with Houston, but we’re talking a 40-mile trip one way through traffic that would make road warriors turn prematurely gray. The meeting started at 3:30 and Michael didn’t get out until 3:00, so there was no way I could pick him up after school and make it to the meeting. So I had to take him with me. But I forgot to make arrangements with his mom that morning, so she had not informed the school that I would be picking him up early. They really frowned on checking kids out early when they had not received a note, so I had to come up with some kind of excuse. I just made up this “little story” to cover me. I needed to take him to the doctor. No self-respecting administrator would fault a grandparent for doing that, right?
I never thought they would call over the intercom, for the whole school to hear. I thought they would just call his classroom on the phone, and discreetly tell the teacher to send him down to the office. Not so, everyone could hear the message blaring over the loudspeakers, echoing through the hallways. “Please send Michael ____ to the office. He is leaving for the day for a doctor’s appointment. Please send his backpack and all homework.”
Michael has always been one of those quick-witted people, who seem to process information and form a conclusion in milliseconds. His mom had not told him anything about going to the doctor that afternoon. That could mean only one thing (the one thing she would NEVER tell him). He was getting a shot!
To understand his reaction, you have to understand that he inherited an overwhelming fear of shots from his mother. When she was about six, her dad, myself, and a nurse had to hold her down on the table to give her a shot, and I’m sure the people across the highway could hear her screaming. I think CPS came to investigate. (Not really…) But Michael had this one thing in common with his mother. Getting a shot was the equivalent of getting eaten by a shark.
I could hear him when he left his classroom. He was crying and screaming at the top of his lungs, “No I’m not sick. NO! NO! NO! Please, no shot! No! Oh, JESUS, please help me!”
I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. As I stepped into the hall to wait for him, trying my best to will him to stop screaming, every teacher was looking out of their classroom down the hallway. Little kids peeking out around their legs, mouths agape. Someone must be dying!
When he finally stumbled into the office, backpack dragging behind him, still screaming, all the office staff were standing at their doors, looking at the grandmother who must be about to consign this poor child to death! I quickly signed him out and drug him outside onto the sidewalk. He was still pulling back on my arm, wailing, digging in his heels as I tried to get him to the car. Finally, I stopped and bent down to talk to him, looking into his eyes and hugging him while I explained about the trip across town and why I needed to get him early.
The transformation was instantaneous. He immediately stopped crying and looked right back into my eyes. The words out of his mouth shocked me into a speechless stupor.
“So — you lied?”
There it was, the naked truth. No words would come out of my mouth. I just looked at him and gulped. You know those thoughts that flash through your mind? Those that justify your actions? They might work on adults, but they don’t work with an 8-year-old like Michael. I just couldn’t come up with an adequate excuse, not in the face of such a plain truth. When I finally found my voice, I stumbled around the words and finally said, “You know, honey, I did lie and I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have. Will you forgive Nana?”
It was hard to admit, but I thought admitting my mistake would be better than making up another excuse.
The words out of his mouth shocked me as much as mine had him. He said, “It’s okay, Nana. My mom does it all the time.”
That night, at the Retreat, we were talking about — what else, honesty and truth. The irony of this “lie” happening on this particular day was not lost on me. I ended up spilling my sins before the whole group. Someone thought it would be a good idea to pray for me. I think they laughed about it all weekend.
Unfortunately, I’m a slow learner. And my grandchildren are quick to catch my foibles.
On days my younger daughter was working, I babysat two-year-old Hunter, and picked up Zackary, his seven-year-old brother, from school. The entire trip from his school to my house is about twenty-five minutes, and that’s if we get behind a school bus. One Thursday afternoon after Hunter and I picked up Zackary, I had to run by the drug store to pick up a prescription.
I see a school bus up ahead, stopping at every intersection, so I turn into a subdivision to avoid it. Darn, where is GPS when you need it? One way into the subdivision, and only one way out (fifteen minutes wasted). Sit in the line at Walgreen’s, because I’m not unbuckling two little boys and parading them all the way through the aisles of treats. Get to the window, and the prescription not ready (just give me about ten minutes, Mrs. Fenter). We pull up to let them help others behind us, wait 10 minutes. Another pass through the drive-through and, “We’re having difficulty getting it to go through, can you give us about fifteen more minutes?” (now twenty-five minutes wasted). Second pass through, this time in the second lane with a little red box that rattles through the ceiling, comes down the rail, hits the bottom, automatically opening the door. Only the bag is sitting precariously on the cusp of the door, and before I can grab it, the bag flies out and under the car, which is pulled very close to the curb. Not a very pretty grandmotherly visual, and Zackary can’t understand why I’m on my knees, mumbling (another five minutes wasted). Out of breath, the prescription retrieved, and we’re on our way. Ten minutes and we should be home!
Turn left onto the ‘shortcut’ street to make up time. NOOOOO. The bridge is under construction. Turn left onto a side street to detour. NO OUTLET. For crying out loud! Turn around in someone’s driveway, an old lady glaring out the window, go back to the ‘shortcut’ street and back to the Walgreen’s parking lot (total of twenty minutes wasted)! We sit there for a bit. Hunter is cooing out a little song, and Zackary is very quiet. Probably knows something is amiss with Nana.
Drive over to the main four-lane street to go the L-O-N-G way home and the car behind me, impatient teenager, cuts around, swerving around in front of me and causing the car passing on the street to slam on their brakes, honking his horn. I join in the revelry because I love my horn! (Another five minutes wasted.)
In the throes of that moment, I said, “Oh, crap, dude, that was stupid.”
Now, I just did a double No-No. Don’t say ‘CRAP’ and don’t say, ‘STUPID’ with your seven-year-old grandson in the back seat, because if you do, you will likely get a lecture on why that wasn’t a good idea.
Quietly, and very seriously, he said, “That probably wasn’t a good thing to say, Nana.”
“Just saying. You know, with HIM in the car, (a head motion in Hunter’s direction). I don’t think mom is going to like it much when he says that word, you know the one you just said.”
“Huh???” I could feel my grandmotherly face turning a bright shade of red. “Yeah, you’re probably right, buddy.”
I’ve always thought God gives us children to help us acquire patience. Maybe He gives us grandchildren to help us learn…wisdom? You’d think I would be pretty wise by now, thirteen of them later, but I’m still learning.
How is your Wisdom-Meter? Surely I’m not the only one still learning…