ACT YOUR AGE

This one’s been around awhile and I still don’t get it.  Heard it a few times as a kid.  Never liked hearing it though because it usually meant I was doing something wrong-—like the kid at Kroger’s yesterday.  He was tossing grapes into the silver pan of the produce weighing scale from his perch in a shopping cart about four feet away.  They made a little clunking sound when they hit just right.  Pretty nifty trick actually and for a five year-old, he had pretty good aim.  His mom wasn’t too happy though.  “Act your age!” she scolded as I passed by.  “He is,” I  smiled.

At six, Mozart was giving piano concerts and Shirley Temple was making movies.  Pocahontas saved Captain James Smith when she was only 12.  At 13, Anne Frank began her famous diary.  Ralph Waldo Emerson enrolled at Harvard when he was 14.  Joan of Arc led her troops against the English and Marco Polo began his expedition of Asia when they were–yup– just 17.  So you tell me:  Were they acting their age?  Apparently, for them.

I was too, this morning, when the girl at Starbucks told ME to act MY age at the Drive-Thru.  Granted, when she said, “What can I get for you today?” I did reply as fast as I could, “New knees, a winning lottery ticket, and two happy, well-behaved kids.”  Then, I waited for what I knew would be a very long pause.  “Excuse me?” she began again.  “My speaker doesn’t seem to be working very well.  I didn’t quite understand your order.”  “A venti non-fat latte, please,” I said as succinctly as I could without giggling.

Look at it this way:  if everyone acted their age, cities wouldn’t be conquered, symphonies composed or challenges created.  There would also be a lot less laughter.  Funny thing, though, Grandmother never told me to act my age.  Maybe that’s because she never acted hers.  I well remember the afternoon she strapped on her old tap shoes.  She was 83 and had just discovered them in the garage.   What a sight she was in that red-checkered shirt and baggy shorts, her white hair flying as she tried to demonstrate a ‘time step.”  For the record, when Jonathan Swift was my age, he had just published, “Gulliver’s Travels.”  Lilliputians?  Seriously.  Talk about acting your age.  Ha! (Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” and speaks around the country about caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s).  http://www.helen-hudson.com).

JUST DRIVE

     I just handed my oldest the keys to the car and sent her out to the market.  For a brief moment, she just stood there and looked at me as if uncertain what I meant.  “Here’s the key,” I repeated.  “Just drive.”  I figure she’s had enough of me sitting in the passenger seat making her nervous.  She now has her license and it’s time for me to let go.  Ha!  Do we parents ever really let go?

        Okay.  So she’s been gone over an hour.  I’ve replayed the entire drive to and from back and forth in my mind several times.  But no amount of my worry will amount to a hill of beans when it comes to, ‘the other guy.’  If I add up all of the worrying I’ve done about everything over the last 40 years, it is quite clear that I have wasted months, maybe years, of precious time.  They should have been spent laughing, creating and exploring instead. 

        The really good decisions I’ve made in my life were mostly done on the spot out of a sense of responsibility, joy or love; like the day we moved Granny in with us.*  We didn’t work out a budget or decide how much time we would have to devote to her.  We just moved her in, Alzheimer’s and all.  In hindsight, it’s better that we didn’t know we’d have to add Depends to the shopping list, or that just bathing her might take an entire hour.  Love far outweighs anything on a balance sheet or a shopping list.

        And it was love that propelled me to send my daughter off an hour ago.  She will never spread her wings if I keep her tethered and I want her to fly.  She needs to feel that sense of full accountability when she is behind the wheel, to know there is nothing between her and the other guy but her own good judgment.  As a driver, she will have to make many ‘on the spot’ decisions.  If they’re done with responsibility, love and joy she will be okay.

        Oops.  Gotta run.  I hear the garage door opening.  My bird is returning to the nest; the same one I used to buckle into her pink, fluffy, car seat with her stuffed elephant.  My heart leaps with both joy and gratitude.  (*From, “Kissing Tomatoes,” by Helen Hudson.  http://www.helen-hudson.com).

P. S.  An hour after I posted this blog, I discovered that Wisconsin has launched a, “Just Drive,” campaign for teens.  It comes with its own yellow road sign and points out that while teens only account for 7% of all drivers, they cause 14% of all accidents.  How comforting.

IMAGINE

     When my grandmother was raising me, it was a simpler time.  Our phone had a circular dial and was not really ‘our’ phone at all, but a ‘party line.’  This meant that we shared the same number with several other people.  So, if the phone rang you had to listen to be sure it was ‘your’ ring before you picked it up.  If you needed to make a call and picked up the receiver you would often hear other people talking.  So, you had to wait.

     Waiting is not something my children’s generation is used to.  Everything in their world is instant.  Recently, I witnessed two teenagers texting each other at a party, and they were sitting side by side!  My own daughter has actually called me from her cell phone rather than walk 20 feet to get my attention.  What is lost is not just human interaction, which involves actual conversation, listening and eye contact.  What is lost is the space between thought and action; the realm of imagination.

     Granny didn’t own a TV until the late sixties.  It was black and white and only had 3 channels.  Watching it was a privilege, not a right.  If I wanted to see an episode of “Leave It To Beaver,” my homework and chores were always done first.  More often than not, I was encouraged to ‘go outside and observe nature.’  I spent hours watching ants carry miniature grains of sugar into their colony.  To make it more interesting, I often provided that sugar!

     That ‘simpler’ time developed my imagination & fueled my drive to become somebody who created not just existed.  I often worry about this generation.  What will they do when the power goes out?  Who will they be?  How much charge is built up on their inner batteries?  

     Today we took our girls to the beach but forgot to bring the frisbee.  Imagine my thrill when my oldest spontaneously began to play ‘imaginary’ frisbee with me.  For several minutes we threw and caught a disc seen only by the two of us.   We jumped and twirled in the sand as onlookers gawked.  Later, one man asked me if we were throwing ‘a very small’ frisbee because he had been unable to see it. 

     Indeed.  If we can cultivate in our children the ability to create what isn’t there and enjoy it, they will be rich no matter what they have.  They will find joy in their greatest sorrows.  And that legacy will last longer than anything we put in the Will.   (Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes.”   http://www.helen-hudson.com.)