The Age of Innocence

Whether we are a doctor, teacher, astronaut, politician, salesperson, or plumber, I would argue that there are few jobs as difficult as being a parent. Our children, particularly when they are young, expect us to be courageous and infallible. A four-year old believes Mommy and Daddy know everything and can heal all wounds and repair all problems with a kiss and a Band-aid. They look to us for answers to all their tiny woes. It is an enormous responsibility.

Our country experienced yet another shooting last week. Americans sent out thoughts and prayers, our politicians expressed their usual sorrow and outrage again, and our flags were lowered to half-staff to honor the newly dead. We want to safeguard our children from becoming victims of these despicable acts of violence, but how do we protect them from knowing what and why this keeps occurring when we don’t understand it ourselves?

Today was a three-generation girls’ day out for Kelly, Lily, and me. As we were driving around town, Kelly told me that Bryce noticed the flags, and she looked to me for an appropriate explanation regarding why the flags were not raised to the top. A kiss was not enough. She is learning how difficult it is to be a mom.

How do you tell a preschooler about fifty-eight people being fatally gunned down while having the time of their lives? What can you say to prevent fear from becoming normal? How can you protect their innocence?

I don’t recall having these worries when the three of you were young. During your early years, I did not worry about you going to the movies with your friends, attending church with me each Sunday, or going to school. It never occurred to me that you could walk out the door and never return. It was not until that spring day in a Colorado high school eighteen years ago when the possibility of a school shooting became real.

I suggested to Kelly that she tell Bryce that we lower flags to honor important people who have died, adding that she need not tell him the details at such a young age. I think at that age less is better at times.

The irony of this day was that after I left her house, Kelly called to inform me that Bryce was not being released from school, because they were under a lockdown along with at least four other area schools. Apparently, four juveniles had fled a stolen vehicle in the area, so law enforcement were taking precautions to protect the schools.

Fortunately, all Bryce spoke of was the fact that he received an extra snack. His innocence has not left the room yet. Fortunately, they caught the perpetrators quickly.

Parenthood is hard.


Whatever Floats Your Boat!

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day—or so we have been taught. It makes sense to me that upon arising, it may have been ten or more hours since our last meal, particularly if we somehow manage to refrain from snacking during the evening.

As a side note, the Romans ate just one meal a day, early Europeans believed it was a meal for the rich, and it did not become a morning institution until people moved into cities during the Industrial Revolution and worked on a regular schedule, with breaks dictated by employers.

Back to our family.

Growing up we always had eggs, cereal, and occasionally, pancakes. I liked scrambled eggs, toast, and tea. Dad liked spaghetti.

The three of you began your mornings with waffles (with the addition of mini chocolate chips for Casey), oatmeal with raisins, or cold cereal such as Kix, Cherrios and the oh-so-unhealthy, Lucky Charms. Time permitting, we would prepare French Toast (with a touch of cinnamon and vanilla) or pancakes.

Before Casey discovered chocolate chip waffles, she loved nontraditional morning meals. Like Bryce who once asked for macaroni and cheese and turkey after one of his sleepovers, young Casey liked tuna melts and New England Clam Chowder.

It was not until our trip to London that I learned about waking up to baked beans, tomatoes, and blood pudding, aka blood sausage—made from onion, pork fat, oatmeal, and pork blood! (Incidentally, Dad took a liking to it, but surprisingly not me.) To each his own.

It was therefore with great interest that Kelly discovered that Lily not only resembles her Aunt Casey physically, but she also shares her childhood morning eating habits. Kelly believed that Lily just had little interest in breakfast. After all, some adults are not fans of any morning meal. But as soon as Mommy placed a plate of last night’s leftovers in front of her, Kelly discovered that Lily just did not like what she had been served. Suddenly, she had a huge appetite.

I suggested that perhaps Lily would enjoy a tuna melt. Casey told me to give her a jar of peanut butter and a spoon. Maybe she would like some baked beans and tomatoes.


How Did We Survive?

As I have watched our old home movies, I can’t help but wonder how we Baby Boomers survived. A prime example is my homecoming. Anyone who has ever spent a night in the hospital knows that no matter how healthy you feel when being discharged, it is impossible to leave without being wheeled out by a hospital employee.

When we have babies today, they ride home snuggled securely inside a safety-approved car seat, so it was with surprise that I viewed my homecoming in 1955. Not only was Grandma not seated in a wheel chair, she strolled out unassisted while holding the hand of my cousin Nancy. She walked behind a nurse who was holding me.

Where was Grandpa? I assume he was behind the lens of the camera, filming the momentous occasion rather than helping Grandma. Scene II showed Grandma climbing into the front passenger seat of our Chevrolet, and then holding out her arms so that she could hold me for the ride home!

1955 Homecoming

Four years later when Aunt Ar was born, safety concerns improved slightly. During that homecoming, my sister was shown in the arms of my grandmother, who was seated in the back seat of the car. I guess that showed a little concern.

It was not until sometime between 1977 and 1985 that all fifty states adopted individual laws regarding child-safety seats, so we were all fortunate to have survived those rides in the car unrestrained. Still, I wonder what Grandma did when taking us out when we were babies or very young toddlers, without any car seats to prevent us from rolling onto the floor. Perhaps she did her shopping when Grandpa was home. There is no other explanation to me.

It’s time for another phone call to Grandma. I hope she remembers.

The Preamble to I Do

We have now been through three engagements, with the most recent (and last) occurring this past weekend. Each engagement had a personality of its own just like the varying personalities of the characters involved.

The first happened over ten years ago. We were in town for something (was it a college visit for Casey?) when the happy couple made the announcement just prior to going out to dinner.

The setting was an off-campus apartment—I think. I must admit that this first engagement was a big surprise, although the bride and groom-to-be had been dating for over three years. I guess it was because it was my first engagement-of-a-child experience, so I was still not thinking that my first baby was growing up.  The years truly flew by so quickly.

Six years later, we learned of the upcoming second engagement as a result of a good old-fashioned telephone call to Dad by groom-to-be #2. He had called to ask for Jamie’s hand in marriage. It was so sweet.

We were sitting in the living room with bride and groom #1 when the telephone rang. After answering the call, Dad suddenly felt the need to close the door. Then he summoned me into his office. The sudden clandestine operation raised a few eyebrows, but we did not offer any confirmations of what was discussed.

Although the final engagement happened only four years after the second, it was definitely the longest in coming. As I loved to say, Casey and Chris had been together since the Bush #43 Administration.

Since this was their ten-year anniversary of something (when they met, or when they first went on a date?), I decided that if this date passed with no announcement, I was giving up—not on them, just the idea of a marriage ever happening. No one understands what took them so long. I guess they wanted  to be certain it was a match.

I knew Dad would never ever get a phone call from Chris asking for his permission to marry her, because that would cause Casey’s feminist head to explode. But let’s just say he did and Dad said no—just to be fun. That would cause a rumble of some very high number on the Richter scale.

Now we will wait to see just how long before they actually tie the knot and what kind of wedding they will have. Somehow, I think it will be unlike the first two weddings—in a field of sunflowers, at Harry Potter World, or perhaps at Kensington Palace.  (Yes, this is a wedding venue, albeit quite pricey.)

If only we could get Joe Biden to perform the ceremony. We all know that would be a dream come true.


Come for Lots and Lots of Visits

As a parent, you spend years having your life overtaken by your children. Those leisurely Saturday mornings when you don’t get dressed until noon, those romantic candlelight dinners with adult music, and those spontaneous weekend outings are in your review mirror for what seems, at times, like forever. But as a mom and dad, you cherish those moments, because they are truly driven by pure love. When you feel those hugs and wet baby kisses, you want to freeze those special moments, but suddenly, you look at those babies and realize that they have become adults.

If you have done your job, they are taxpaying wage earners and have left the nest. Perhaps they have families of their own. When that happens, sad as it may be to see them leave, you have succeeded.

So it was this in mind that I had an interesting conversation with four-year old Bryce recently regarding his thoughts on becoming an adult.

Bryce: I decided that when I am a grown-up I am going to live here in my house forever with my family and parents.

Me: Don’t you want to live in your own house?

Bryce: I don’t want to miss Christmas.      

While I want my children to always love me, by the time they have their own families, I don’t think I want them staying “forever.”

I think I will be happy with just lots of visits and an amazing Christmas at their “grown-up house.”

That Alligator Dream

Although this is late in coming, I don’t want Easter passing without mentioning the alligator-dream Easter. Kelly reminded me of this when she was at our house on Easter Sunday, and then Casey told me that she had a discussion on FaceTime with Bryce about the incident.

One Easter, Jamie decided she was going to eat all the candy in her basket that day. I am not certain if we spent the day at our house or somebody else’s home, but I do recall that we were busy and no one was keeping an eye on Jamie, so she set out eating all the chocolate and jellybeans that were delivered by the Easter Bunny. She ignored the meat, potatoes, and veggies du jour.

That night she was rewarded by some frightening dreams which centered on alligators. (She probably saw a few on one of our Kiawah Island vacations!) She was not a happy camper the next day. I admit I don’t remember the details, but I imagine there was screaming during the middle of the night. I think she learned a lesson from that experience.

So both Kelly and Casey warned Bryce of the consequences of eating too much candy on Easter. I think it would be a good idea to remind him of this story on Halloween as well.

You Want to Eat What?

Now that I have small children in my life again, they are helping me dredge up old memories of your younger days.

Dad and I recently hosted a sleepover here with Bryce, and at dinner that night, we discussed breakfast options for the next day. When Dad offered to make French toast, Bryce seemed excited.

So the next morning when he awoke, he first announced that he would like to watch a show. That is very much like me since I don’t like to have any food immediately upon arising. Bryce still seemed happy with the idea of French toast, with a side of blueberries, so while he snuggled in our bed and watched Paw Patrol, Dad busied himself fixing breakfast. I was excited myself since I have not eaten French toast in years.

When we called him to the table, Bryce first ate all his blueberries and then just sat there. Apparently he had had a change of heart. As parents, we would have said, “Tough, tough creampuff. Eat your French toast,” but we are grandparents, so that is not what we said. Instead, we asked what he now wanted,and he stated that he wanted a turkey and cheese sandwich—deconstructed of course! Secretly, neither of us was  upset because, frankly,  the French toast looked great.

Dad looked at him strangely, but I was immediately reminded of Casey’s breakfasts back in the day. While Kelly and Jamie would typically have cereal or waffles, Casey loved to buck tradition just like her nephew. A typical Casey breakfast would be a tuna melt or perhaps a bowl of Progresso New England clam chowder.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with what she chose, but I just did not have the stomach for the odors of tuna or clam chowder at 7 o’clock in the morning. So in comparison, Bryce’s request was quite tame.

Daddy got right to work creating a beautiful “big plate.” In addition to the turkey and cheese, with a hamburger bun, Dad added some mac and cheese from dinner the previous evening. He tried to sneak in a pizza bagel, but Bryce was not interested. Obvi (as Casey would say), he takes after Aunt Casey with his breakfasts preferences, while Lily follows her aunt with her left-handedness.