Tuesday, November 14, 2006

You make me feel so young..uh, old

Living with my grandchildren, I have many opportunities to see the world through their eyes. I've heard that being around young kids can make you feel young. That's true, but the opposite is also true - kids can make you feel very old. Caroline, for instance, often reminds me of my infirmities, at least from her vantage point.

Last night at supper, she was not eating all of her carrots. As a rule, she likes carrots, but last night I think she was anxious for dessert, so it took a little coaxing from the rest of us to finish her meal.

"Carrots are good for your eyes," said Chris. "They help you see better!"
"Yeah," said Ed. "If you don't eat your carrots, you may end up looking like me - bald with glasses!"
At that, Caroline paused to take a close look at Ed. I'm not sure what was going through her head, but I knew she was trying to picture herself bald with glasses. Either that, or she was wondering how carrots got to be such a power broker in human transformation.

Later that night, I was helping give Caroline her bath. She told me she wanted more soap on her washcloth. I said I'd do it, but as I reached for the soap, she took it gently from me, looked up and said, "No, thank you. I'll do it. You can't see." She squeezed the liquid soap on her washcloth, then looked up again. "I have the goodest eyes in this house."

Of course, I realize Caroline thinks I am old, as I used to think all my elementary school teachers were old. But back then, all ladies of a certain age dressed "old." They wore clunky shoes and long dresses and jewelry and had their hair in buns. I really have no idea how old they actually were. But in the perspective of us second-graders, they were definitely old ladies.

This was my challenge when I became a grandmother. I think most Baby Boomers want to be a different kind of role model for "old ladies." Both my own grandmothers were elderly and frail by the time I was old enough to know them. They never wore shorts, or got down on the floor and lifted me up on their knees, or even chased me around the room. Even as I look in Caroline's books, all the grandmothers in the pictures are dumpy, dowdy, and wearing aprons.

Yes, my eyes are not what they used to be. I still get down on the floor with Caroline and Charlotte, but it takes a lot more effort to get back up. When I get home from my commute, I sometimes prefer to sit down for a while instead of playing with the doll house. But she accepts me all the same - with all my limitations as well as my strengths, most of the time with patience. Through it all, she can make me feel 5 years old one day and can make me feel 70 the next. I'm beginning to think the power is not in the carrots - it's really in Caroline.

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