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By Joe Yates
Those of us that have grandchildren are lucky. Those of us that have grandchildren and write a column for our local newspaper are doubly lucky. Why? Because we not only get to bore our friends, and sometimes complete strangers in person with stories of how smart and funny our grandchildren are, I get to tell you about mine in the newspaper. Ha!
My grandson’s name is Sawyer. He is five years old and calls me “Uddy.” Thanks for asking, but I really don’t know—just a toddler’s muddled attempt to say granddaddy, I suppose.
Sawyer is in my lap. We are watching SpongeBob SquarePants on television.
Me: Ow! That had to hurt. Sponge Bob just stuck a big fork in his own forehead.
Sawyer: That wasn’t a fork, it was a spatula.
Me: Well, it still had to hurt.
Sawyer: Not if you’re a sponge.
Oh, and he really did use the word ‘spatula,’ even though it wasn’t even the punch line.
On a beautiful day last spring, we were sitting on the front steps of my office waiting for his father, the baseball coach, to come pick him up after a game. As we sat there enjoying the sunshine and watching all the cars and trucks go by, Sawyer began to pretend that he was driving. After a minute or so, I also began to “drive,” holding my arms out to turn an imaginary steering wheel and moving my feet to accelerate and apply brakes. To heighten authenticity, Sawyer begins to make driving sounds. Not one to be left out, I did likewise: “Unnnggghhhh,” I grunted. But before I could pop the clutch a second time, he turned, narrowed his eyes, and informed me: “Be quiet, Uddy, I’m driving!”
We sometimes eat breakfast ‘out’ on Saturday mornings. Thanks to the nice ladies at the Chat ’n’ Nibble, he always special orders a Mickey Mouse pancake. The strategic placement of a few chocolate chips and whipped cream create Mickey’s mouth, nose and eyes—a couple of dollops of batter poured at the top of Mickey’s head, and voila, mouse ears. Whether he eats two bites or the entire pancake is always a matter of speculation. One morning, after consuming well over three-quarters of Mickey’s smiling face, Sawyer says, “I can’t eat no more.” His grandfather (that would be me) just happens to be a grammar Nazi—and this, I tell myself, by golly, is going to be an excellent teaching moment. So, with all of the mock indignation I can muster, I place my fists on my hips, lean over the table and say. “No, I can’t eat any more.”
He replies, “Me, neither.”
Those of us of a certain age recognize that methods of discipline have changed greatly over the years. We weren’t coaxed into behaving. I seem to recall being frightened into it.
Picture a poster board rendering of an ordinary traffic light at the front of a kindergarten classroom. It has the three pouches attached to it, each corresponding with the colors of a stoplight: red at the top, then yellow, and green at the bottom. Each student has his or her picture on a small stick and, for starters, all of the pictures are safely residing in the ‘green-light’ pouch—young, smiling faces peeking out to show the world that “we have been good citizens.” For the first infraction, the students’ picture is moved—oh, the humiliation—to yellow. If a student’s picture gets moved to the ‘red-light’ pouch, the little angel is in deep trouble.
One day during “quiet time,” Sawyer would not stop talking. After first being mildly admonished by this teacher, he ends up in the yellow pouch—oh, for shame. But instead of being duly chastened, he marches to the front of the room, announces that he knows he will not be able to be quiet for the rest of the day, puts his picture in the red-light pouch and calmly walks back to his seat.
I am not quite sure what this last story portends. But in the catalogue of life’s lessons, it’s filed under “If you’re having a bad day, just roll with it.”