We're facing our nest being officially empty at the end of next week - and I'm not talking about our bird house! Our oldest child Megan will turn 30 next month, and since her birth we've had kids at home, except for short periods as the kids were at summer camps or in their college years working in summer camps. But now after just one month shy of 30 years, this is it - The Empty Nest. Our daughter Nora has been living at home again for the last several years, having moved back in with us while our son Mark was still at home. But next Friday Nora moves into her own apartment.
My wife and I loved raising our family and enjoyed watching and helping our kids go through all the stages as they grew up. Some of our favorite times were during the years when they were little and often thinking out loud. Some of the things they said will always live on in our memories. Little kids are so refreshingly honest in their naïveté, evaluating and commenting on things from their limited perspective! We especially love young children, and all three of our kids seem to have picked that up from us - they are all pre-school or elementary teachers.
Today's instant vacation is some stories I've received from people recounting what young children have said.
While I sat in the reception area of my doctor's office, a woman rolled an elderly man in a wheelchair into the room. As she went to the receptionist' s desk, the man sat there, alone and silent. Just as I was thinking I should make small talk with him, a little boy slipped off his mother's lap and walked over to the wheelchair. Placing his hand on the man's, he said, "I know how you feel. My mom makes me ride in the stroller too."
Out bicycling one day with my eight-year-old granddaughter, Carolyn, I got a little wistful. "In ten years," I said, "you'll want to be with your friends and you won't go walking, biking, and swimming with me like you do now."
Carolyn shrugged and said, "In ten years you'll be too old to do all those things anyway."
One afternoon while I was visiting my library, I noticed a group of preschoolers gathered for story time. The book they were reading was There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. After the librarian finished the first page, she asked the children, "Do you think she'll die?"
"Nope," a little girl in the back said. "I saw this last night on Fear Factor."
Near our town in France there's a nudist colony. One day as I was driving along in the car with one of my grandchildren, a member of the nudist colony rode down our street on a bicycle. My granddaughter said, "Grandpa, did you see that?!"
I tried to change the subject, but my granddaughter was insistent, "Grandpa, did you see that?!"
I replied, "Yes, honey, let's look the other way," and tried again to change the subject.
My granddaughter said, "Grandpa, did you see that?! That's bad! That person wasn't wearing a helmet!"
My sister had been ill, so I called to see how she was doing. My ten-year-old niece answered the phone "Hello," she whispered.
"Hi, honey. How's your mother?" I asked.
"She's sleeping," she answered, again in a whisper.
"Did she go to the doctor?" I asked.
"Yes. She got some medicine," my niece said softly.
"Well, don't wake her up. Just tell her I called. By the way, what are you doing?"
Again in a soft whisper, she answered, "Practicing my trumpet."
On the way back from a Cub Scout meeting, my grandson asked my son the question. "Dad, I know that babies come from mommies' tummies, but how do they get there in the first place?" he asked innocently.
After my son hemmed and hawed awhile, my grandson finally spoke up in disgust. "You don't have to make something up, Dad. It's OK if you don't know the answer."
Just before I was deployed to Iraq , I sat my eight-year-old son down and broke the news to him. "I'm going to be away for a long time," I told him. "I'm going to Iraq."
"Why?" he asked. "Don't you know there's a war going on over there?"
Paul Newman founded the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for children stricken with cancer, AIDS and blood diseases. One afternoon he and his wife, Joanne Woodward, stopped by to have lunch with the kids. A counselor at a nearby table, suspecting the young patients wouldn't know that Newman was a famous movie star, explained, "That's the man who made this camp possible. Maybe you've seen his picture on his salad dressing bottle?" ... Blank stares ... "Well, you've probably seen his face on his lemonade carton?"
An eight-year-old girl piped up. "How long was he missing?"
My last name is a mouthful, so when my three-year-old niece learned to spell it, I was thrilled, until her cousin burst my bubble. "You can spell Sczygelski any way you like," he pointed out. "Who's going to know if it's wrong?"
For the first time, my four-year-old daughter Kelsey was coming to my office to have me, a dental hygienist, clean her teeth. She was accompanied by her grandmother. When they came in, I greeted them warmly, seated Kelsey and, as usual, put on my gloves, goggles, and mask. About ten minutes into the procedure, she got scared and cried, "I want my mommy!"
I quickly pulled off my mask and said, "I am your mommy."
Without hesitating, my daughter yelled back, "Then I want my granny!"
A little girl stared questioningly at her grandfather. Finally she asked, "Grandpa, were you on Noah's Ark?"
The grandfather replied with a slight chuckle. "Of course not."
Then girl asked, "Then how come you didn't drown?"
On the first day of school, the Kindergarten teacher said, "Whenever you need to go to the bathroom, hold up two fingers."
A little voice from the back of the room asked, "How will that help?"
I didn't know if my granddaughter had learned her colors yet, so I decided to test her. I would point out something and ask what color it was. She would tell me, and always she was correct. But it was fun for me, so I continued. At last she headed for the door, saying sagely, "Grandma, I think you should try to figure out some of these on your own!"
A mother had invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said, "Would you like to say the blessing?"
"I wouldn't know what to say," the girl replied.
"Just say what you hear Mommy say," the wife answered.
The daughter bowed her head and said, "Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?"
While working for an organization that delivers lunches to elderly shut-ins, I used to take my four-year-old daughter on my afternoon rounds. She was unfailingly intrigued by the various appliances of old age, particularly the canes, walkers and wheelchairs. One day I found her staring at a pair of false teeth soaking in a glass. As I braced myself for the inevitable barrage of questions, she merely turned and whispered, "The tooth fairy will never believe this!"
A little girl had just finished her first week of school. "I'm just wasting my time," she said to her mother. "I can't read, I can't write - and they won't let me talk!"
A woman was trying hard to get the catsup to come out of the bottle. During her struggle the phone rang so she asked her four-year old daughter to answer the phone.
"It's the minister, Mommy," the child said to her mother. Then she added on the phone, "Mommy can't come to the phone to talk to you right now. She's hitting the bottle."
When my daughter was three, we watched Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for the first time. The wicked queen appeared, disguised as an old lady selling apples, and my daughter was spellbound. Then Snow White took a bite of the poisoned apple and fell to the ground unconscious. As the apple rolled away, my daughter spoke up. "See, Mom. She doesn't like the peel either."
Working as a pediatric nurse, I had the difficult assignment of giving immunization shots to children. One day I entered the examining room to give four-year-old Lizzie her needle. "No, no, no!" she screamed.
"Lizzie," scolded her mother, "that's not polite behavior."
With that, the girl yelled even louder, "No, thank you! No, thank you!"
This week, thanks to Skype and webcams, for the first time we saw our grandson Drew walk. He's also now saying words, and we can't wait till he strings them together into memorable things like what you've just read!
Our daughter Megan is an avid scrapbooker. Here's a picture of one of her recent pages about Drew - Your First Year in Review...
To see more of Megan's scrapbook pages, click here.
Speaking of seeing things, those of you who read my blog posts by e-mail or by blog reader missed something in my last post, unless you came to the blog itself. (Embedded video clips don't come through in the e-mails or blog readers). To see the video of the Japanese woman showing how to fold a t-shirt in mere seconds (an art that even I have now mastered!), go to my blog and scroll down.
I hope that some of you with kids in your lives will share in the comments some of the great things they've said!
"Sometimes parents point their kids to heaven while they lead them to hell." - Dr. Drew Conley
Children will soon forget your presents; they will always remember your presence.