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Children are always that way

By MIMI BECKER

Coffee with Mimi

My granddaughter was 7 on Christmas Eve. Prior to that actual day, on which she would actually be 7, I overheard her on the phone in a conversation which involved my sister. My sister can be a character, especially when egging on a child. The one-sided child part of the exchange gave me clues as to the subject under discussion. The logic of the argument flowing back and forth was clearly not that. At one point, the almost 7-year-old declared, “You cannot argue with a 7-year-old.” Translation: Give it up, if that’s all you got.

You may try, but if your argument isn’t strong enough, this 7-year-old can and will call your bluff.

That’s when it hit me. My grandchild is no longer a grandbaby. I know intellectually, there is a big difference between being 6 and being 7. You must be very careful what you say within earshot of a 7-year-old child. A 7-year-old understands a lot more than you want to admit, or want to explain later. You can no longer resort to spelling words, when in communication with another adult. A 7-year-old can read and spell a lot of words. While she may not get it right at the moment, the truth will dawn on her in a few sentences and then you are in for it. I just wasn’t prepared for it emotionally.

Last Christmas, she was 5 turning 6. We planned cookie making and other little girl activities. She also wanted to help with whatever I was doing. Cooking in general was an exercise in patience. Any part of the process was fraught with potential disaster. During the child planned activity of cookie making, there was no limit to where icing would be found after the fact. Two competent adults were required to supervise and guide little hands to produce even a couple examples of festive holiday cookies.

There is absolutely no way just 365 days have passed between then and now. This year, making and decorating cookies was nearly an independent activity. She could roll out the dough, she could cut out the shapes, she could mix the icing colors. She could decorate the little boys and girls and trees with well executed knife strokes and place little sprinkles in pleasing arrangements. There was little or no mess on her, the table, the floor or the general environment. At the close of the activity, the cookies were edible, and invitingly so.

There is truth to the old adage. Grandchildren are the best thing, ever. They are so much fun. And, at the end of the day/weekend/week you send them home to your children. Seldom is a grandparent expected to be responsible for the nitty-gritty, day to day necessities with a grandchild. Grandparents get to have all the fun and then send the child home with the cookie mess. Grandparent and grandchild activities don’t need to make sense, they just need to be. Sometimes grandparent and grandchild activities are frozen in time.

But, as I experienced this year, the grandchild is growing up and really should be allowed to do so.

For this brief moment in history, she definitely isn’t a baby but not quite grown up, thank goodness. But, you sense it won’t be long before the little child is no longer. You have to be prepared for it.

She remembers from year to year. She reminds you that last year was the first Christmas without Sassy. Sassy was the much loved family pet. She remembers how to set the dinner table with all the right utensils and napkins, mostly in the right places. She wants to sit in your lap, but realizes she is just about too big for the cuddle and settles next to you on the couch. The Christmas cookies are recognizable shapes and colors.

When we were in the midst of our own 6-turning-7-year-old (and four turning 5 and one turning 2) I didn’t give a thought to what the future would hold and how quickly time might pass. It never occurred to me to wonder when the cookies would look presentable as a rite of passage. I just managed what was happening in that moment. And then the next and the next.

This year I do wonder, what will this grandchild bring to us when she is 8, 12 and 15? What will she be like when she is grown? What will she like to do?

This year her world was so much bigger than last year. She could carry on conversations and appreciated things we consider special among the gathered family. She understood the limits and expectations of a daily schedule which didn’t always center on her. She laughed at the right times and had fun with extended family she seldom sees.

I think she is that way, because that’s the way it has always been with children. We just don’t notice until it was our turn to sit back and watch as someone else takes care of the nitty gritty and the necessities of life.