Photo © 2017 by Yukyung Couey
Copyright © 2017
by Ralph F. Couey
Written content only.
"We can waste a lifetime
of study and contemplation
pursuing the truth of life,
when all we really ever had to do
was ask our five-year-old."
--R. F. Couey
Last month, in my farewell address to my colleagues, I encouraged them that while they were navigating the maelstrom that spins through their lives, to be alert for those marvelous moments of the now. It can be too easy that while we are fully focused on the "have-to-do's" and "gotta-be-there's" that crowd our schedules that we can become unaware of those moments when they occur. Those magical snippets can become golden memories.
Art Linkletter had a television show in the 1960's called, "Kids Say the Darndest Things." The format was delightfully simple. Art sat down with some kids, what today would be called a panel, and asked them questions. The wonderful attraction to the program was the delightful and incredible things that came out of the mouths of those babes. Young children are very prone to saying what is exactly on their mind, lacking, or perhaps ignoring, the social filters that keep such utterances from adults locked firmly inside. As they grow older, they become, in a way, more cynical and less frank, and of course, much less entertaining.
Our grandson Ian just turned six years old, and has always been a reliably hilarious source of such gems. He is very intelligent (yeah, yeah, I know. ALL grandparents say that.), but in the last couple years has revealed a real sense of humor. And a very contagious laugh.
Ian's Mom and Dad began writing these things down for posterity, something we have come to call "Ian-isms." While this is the kind of thing parents normally save for when they meet the boy's first girlfriend, they are truly amazing, and reflect his active mind.
The first one I heard happened one evening when bedtime was approaching. Dad had been reading a book to him, when Ian suddenly looked up and asked,
"Daddy, how old were you when you were my age?"
A couple of weeks later, Ian was having a conversation with his cousin, Hyunu which unwound like this:
Hyunu: "I'm taller than you."
Ian: "My mom is taller than you."
Hyunu: "My mom is taller than your mom."
Ian: "My Dad is taller than your Mom!"
Hunu: "Well, my Dad is taller than your Dad, so I'm going to be taller than you!"
Ian: "Humph. We'll see about that!"
I'll have to admit, I've never before heard a five-year-old say "humph!"
Moms always employ a bit of futurist bribery when trying to get their young lads to eat the right foods, telling them that they have to eat the...whatever...if they want to grow up to be a big boy. And we all know that the one thing little boys want the most is to be big boys. Ian, however, saw things a little different:
Mom: "If you eat really well, you'll grow up nice and strong.
Ian: "Okay, Mommy."
You also need to get a lot of sleep."
Ian: "That's why I wake up late."
Ian and his two sisters love to go to the library. But at our local book repository, they also had toys for the kids, which included a collection of wooden blocks. Ian had used the entire set to build an impressive tower, something that would have been right at home in mid-town Manhattan. Another little boy had been going around knocking things over, and found Ian's construction project nigh irresistible. As he closed the range, Ian responded with his "evil eye" look, and told him, "Don't knock down my tower," in a tone that suggested a very young Darth Vader. The other boy persisted, hanging around waiting for a moment of inattention on the part of Ian when he could step in with some urban renewal, when Ian glared once again at him, and in a move right out of the cinema, took his two fingers and first pointed at his eyes, then towards the other kid, a gesture that clearly means, "I'm watching you!" Great. A five-year-old DeNiro.
I came home from work one day to find Ian in the family room, sans trousers, waving around a cardboard tube from a roll of gift wrap. He is a big fan of Star Wars, and it was clear he was imitating Obi-Wan Kenobi. So, I asked him,
"Ian, are you a Jedi?"
To which he replied,
"No. Jedi have pants."
Ian, like all children his age, got an early start with electronics. By the time he turned two-and-a-half, he was already a virtuoso on the iPad, and approaching the first level of mastery with a desktop. But iPads, or as he referred to them, "ah-pads," were in limited supply at the time around the house. One evening, Dad was using the ah-pad to do...whatever Dads do with ah-pads. Ian clearly wanted to watch cartoons, but despite repeated requests, could not get Dad to relinquish the device. So finally, he climbed up on the couch, got right in Dad's grill, and said:
"Daddy, you need to learn to share!"
Kids listen, and will imitate their parents at times, reminding us that those little ears are always busy, even when we'd rather they were doing something else. One day, as supper was approaching, Mom in need of some assistance, asked Ian,
"Ian, what's Daddy doing?"
Ian in a perfect wife-ish sassy tone of voice, replied,
"He's doing NOTHING! That's what he's doing!"
Dad and Mom own a mini-van with a video screen, ideal for keeping the peace inside the car on long-ish trips. They were enroute to a birthday party, and the car was full of supplies for the fete, including some balloons bobbing around the ceiling. They blocked Ian's view of the screen, so he told Dad,
"I can't see the movie because the balloons are blocking the TV!"
Dad: "Then hold the balloons."
Ian: "I don't want to."
Dad: "Well, you can hold the balloons, or not see the TV.
Those are your two options."
Ian: "I can make my own options!"
One day, Mom and Ian were talking about having a pet, and when Ian would be old enough to be responsible for it. Mom asked when he thought he might be old enough for that, and Ian replied,
"I think I can have a pet when I'm ten. I can feed him,
I can take him for walks, I can take care of him. But not when I'm 20."
Mom: "Why not?"
Ian: "Because I'll have a job and I'll be grouchy."
Well, he certainly got that part right.
These are the golden years of parenting, before the onslaught of teenage hormones, when kids can be at their cutest and funniest. All parents hear these things, and encode them in memory. But memory is a wily critter, and the passage of time can cause those golden quotes to vanish in the mist, which is why I encourage parents to write those things down when they occur. Thanks to the Internet, some of these priceless utterances are now preserved forever.
Kayla Reeves of the Huffington Post, recounted a conversation with her daughter.
"When my child came home from school on the bus,
I paused the work conference call I was on to ask how her day was.
She responded, "Ssshhh, go back to work. I have a list of things
I want you to buy me with the money you're making."
Kayla noted, "She's five."
Time passes quickly, and these wonderful early years will be gone before you know it. Before too long, the only thing you'll hear from your child will be that perfectly executed "mmf"that passes for eloquence from a teenager. Do yourself a favor. Provide yourself a ready bulwark from that too-rapidly approaching time by writing down your kid's sayings while they're still cute and funny. Trust me, they'll provide endless entertainment for the rest of your life.
And what the heck, you can always reveal them to their first date. After all, what's the fun of being a parent if you can't occasionally embarrass your kid?