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Archive for Sunday, January 14, 2001

1-14 GOFF

January 14, 2001

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With seven children -- Greg and Val's three and Rich and Elaine's four -- in their group, Val exclaimed with relief, "Boy, I'm glad we don't have to worry about any of our kids doing that!"

Suddenly, granddaughter Sammi, then 5 years old, began to cry and confessed that she had called 911 to report that her 6-year-old brother, Gabe, was "picking" on her.

When my husband, Ray, and I were told that story almost three years after the fact, Gabe -- who apparently had forgotten the incident -- heard it and became indignant.

"Well," he fumed, "if I had known she called the police on me, I would have called a good lawyer!"

The truth is that you never can tell -- and certainly can't control -- what kids are going to do or say.

Ray and I recently drove to Missouri, where Greg's family just moved, to keep an eye on 3-year-old Zoe so Gabe and Sammi could be accompanied to their new school by both parents.

Sammi's expression was sunny that morning, and she clearly was eager to go to school and make new friends. Her brother's disposition was cloudy. Gabe dawdled and complained until Greg told him in no uncertain terms to "put your shoes on NOW!"

When Greg and Val returned from the school, Greg shook his head ruefully and said, "Boy, did we make a good first impression on Gabe's teacher!"

Indeed. "Dad yelled at me," Gabe had grumbled to his new third-grade teacher, "like I was some kind of jerk!"

When I later recounted the incident to my sister, Vicki, who spent many years as a preschool director, she roared with laughter and said, "I'll bet they barely made it out the door before that teacher was checking Gabe for bruises!"

The incident reminded me of an anecdote I read about a mother who wrote her child's teacher a note on the first day of school.

"I promise not to believe everything my son says happens at school," she pledged, "if you promise not to believe everything he says happens at home."

Unfortunately, any embarrassing incidents -- regardless of how seemingly improbable -- that Ray Jr. and Greg blabbed about to their teachers were likely accurate.

Take the time, 8-year-old Greg went exploring in my parents' bedroom early one Saturday morning. I was visiting in the kitchen with Mom while Dad was sleeping late. Suddenly, we heard a muffled pop, followed by Dad's coughing and gasping. I ran into the bedroom and Greg, tears pouring down his cheeks, exclaimed, "The handkerchief exploded!"

Well, not exactly. Don't ask me why my lawyer father had a tear-gas pen on his dresser. Don't ask me why it was loaded with a tear-gas cartridge.

And certainly don't ask me to explain why Dad thought covering it with a handkerchief would keep a nosy visiting kid from finding it and setting it off.

While Greg's teacher never asked me about the tear-gas caper, I'd be surprised if he didn't share it at school. The fact is, kids are born reporters: If they know it, sooner or later, so will everyone else.

As evidence, when my young friend Jill was a preschooler, she hurried to greet me at her family's front door so she could confide that the antique oak ice-box her father had recently refinished was "full of scotch!"

Another little girl who was a passenger in my car when I drove for a third-grade field trip, shared with me that her father owned "a locked safe" in which he kept "a gun." Had that gun been wrapped in a handkerchief, I think she would have given me that information as well.

It's a sure bet that when you are a parent, a little knowledge in your child can be a very dangerous thing!

-- Marsha Henry Goff is a free-lance writer in Lawrence. Her e-mail address is mhgink@idir.net.

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