My cousin Shirley Wolfe Cameron, commented on a story I wrote a couple of days ago, and while this story and that one really have very little to do with each other, her comment sparked a little memory for me. My story was on my great grandmother, Henriette Schumacher’s debilitating arthritis, but it reminded Shirley of our grandmother, Anna Schumacher Spencer when she was in a wheelchair with debilitating arthritis. Shirley is Grandma’s first granddaughter, and while she is not the oldest grandchild, she was always very close to Grandma. Grandma lived with the Wolfe family for many years, and so the two of them shared many good times, and Shirley has many great memories of those times, and of her grandma. They are memories that most of us younger grandchildren wish we had too. I don’t remember my grandmother at all, because she died when I was just three months old, but in some ways, I really think I must be a bit like her…especially when it comes to my grandchildren.
Shirley told me of the times when she was in trouble with her mother, my aunt, Ruth Spencer Wolfe. She said she would run in to Grandma, yelling, “Grandma, Grandma, Grandma!!” Then she would climb up in Grandma’s lap a wait for her mother to come in after her. Grandma was always a bit of a peacemaker, and like me, she hated to see her grandchildren being disciplined. As grandmothers, we know they have to be disciplined…otherwise, they turn out pretty bratty, but it still breaks our hearts that our precious little babies have to get punished. Unfortunately, their parents don’t always like our soft hearted ways. They think that Grandma is a pushover…and, really we are. So, our pushover Grandma, would lift Shirley up into her lap and make a game of protecting Shirley from her mom’s punishment. Aunt Ruth got frustrated during those little episodes, like most parents would, but most of the time, in the end, she laughed along with her mother and her daughter, because she knew that this battle was lost.
My grandchildren were totally my weakness too. I was a fairly strict disciplinarian with my daughters, Corrie and Amy, but when it came to the grandkids, I was a pushover. Everyone knew it, from the grandkids to their parents, and even my parents and sisters. Even if the kids did something wrong when they stayed with me, their parents never knew it, because I didn’t want them to get into trouble. Thankfully, they are good kids, and they don’t take serious advantage of their grandma…or maybe they do, and I am too much of a pushover to realize it. My status as a pushover became a family joke of sorts too. The kids always knew that if Bob and I went out of town, we were going to bring them something back. They have had a variety of toys, candy, souvenirs, and t-shirts, including one of my favorite t-shirts. It was the one that went something like, “When all else fails…Call 1-800-Grandma.”
We have laughed at and used that saying many times over the years, and while I can’t say for sure that they ever really told on their parents, they did do their best to spend the night often. Maybe their parents were grouchy, and they wanted to go spend time with the pushover, or maybe they just liked to spend the might with their grandma, I can’t say for sure. One thing I can say for sure, however, is that kids have been calling 1-800-Grandma in one way or another, for as long as grandmothers have existed. There is simply no way for a mother who was a good parent to their own kids, not to relax and realize that you don’t always have to take life so seriously with your grandchildren.
As little girls, my daughter, Amy and her cousin, my niece, Machelle had an up and down relationship. One minute they were friends, and the next minute the were at each others throats. Being just six months apart in age, and both pretty headstrong, they each had specific ideas about how things should go when they are playing together, and when the other one disagreed…wow!!
Being the younger of the two, Machelle often thought it was ok to take Amy’s toys away from her. Now Amy tends to be slow to anger, so she would pick up a different toy, only to have Machelle take that one too. After a few such episodes, Machelle’s mom, my sister-in-law, Debbie said, with a laugh, how cute it was that Machelle kept taking Amy’s toys away. Knowing my daughter, as I did, I knew that she would be patient with her younger cousin…for a while, and then my little girl would handle things in the only way she could…she would pop her cousin one, squarely in the nose. I felt that I should warn my sister-in-law, so I told her what was about to happen. She decided that it was best to move her daughter a little further away from mine.
Of course, not every encounter was like this one, and Amy was not always the winner, but the girls did tend to…disagree a lot in those early years, and because they were just kids, they didn’t always grasp the whole “don’t hit your cousin” thing. It happens sometimes, and often when the cousins are the same sex and near the same age. There were times when the girls could easily drive us crazy back then. In fact, sometimes I wondered how we managed to survive those fighting years, since they fought every time they were together.
Still, there were times when the girls were best friends, and we wondered how long it would last this time. How could two girls be such strong enemies one minute, and the next minute, such good friends. A number of years have gone by now, and those little girl days are long past. Amy and Machelle no longer fight like they used to. In fact, they don’t fight at all, and Machelle was even a bride’s maid in Amy’s wedding. Maybe they got all that fighting over with when they were little, or maybe it had nothing to do with the two of them, and everything to do with normal child interaction. I guess it doesn’t matter really, since we no longer have to separate them. They have both turned into wonderful women, who have proven themselves to be sweet and kind to everyone around them.
Xander is the son of my niece, Jenny and her husband Steve. He is their oldest child. As the oldest child, he takes his responsibilities very seriously. He tries very hard to make sure his little brothers stay in line…or is that called wrestling. No matter…whatever it is called, Xander is the big brother in charge, and at least for now he has his little brothers believing that. It doesn’t make them stop trying to take him though, because that is just what boys do. And these three boys are among the toughest guys around. I have watched them wrestling around, and the last words you will hear from them is “I give up” because they just don’t.
Xander also loves to go shooting with his parents and brothers. His parents have taught him and his brothers about gun safety and proper respect for guns. The boys know how to shoot, and they know that a gun is not a toy, but a weapon that can kill if used improperly. They would never use a gun improperly.
Xander reminds me so much of his dad. Steve is a strong man, but inside, he is very different. There is a kindness there, combined with love and loyalty. That is how Xander is. He feels any hurt his parents are going through very deeply. He tries to protect them from hurt or pain. He feels loss deeply as well, and he tries to figure out a way to make things right…or at least better, if there is no solution.
As I said, Xander is very much like his dad…which means that while he is a tough guy on the outside…on the inside he is a big teddy bear. Recently at school, he was named star student. That meant that he got to go to the front of the line…he and any other star student. Of course, there is only room for one person at the head of the line, and Xander was there first. Then a girl said, “I want to be first! I’m a star student too!” Xander quickly responded, “Of course…ladies first!” Not only was the little girl happy, but Xanders teacher was surprised and very pleased. She told Xander’s mom, my niece, Jenny that she was very pleased and proud of him. She said that his good upbringing really showed. It was such a proud moment for Jenny and Steve, and when I heard about it, I felt very proud to be his great aunt too. Today is Xander’s 9th birthday!! Happy birthday Xander!! We love you very much!!
When you are small, and you don’t have much prospect of getting very big, you have 2 choices. You can take the teasing and even bullying that kids can dish out, or you can learn to take care of yourself. As an adult who is only 4’11” tall, you can imagine how little Amy was as a little girl. But don’t let her small size fool you, because if necessary, you will find that there is a tiger living inside that small frame. Of course, like all tiger cubs, Amy’s prowess developed slowly. She first began by making sure that her big sister, Corrie knew who was the tougher of the two. Now Corrie was bigger, and 11 months older, but that didn’t matter. When Corrie was about 3, she came out of the bedroom the girls shared, crying. I asked what was wrong. She said through her tears, “Amy hit me!!” Now, coming from a family of five girls who fought plenty, I couldn’t see much sense in coming between them in their fight, so I told Corrie to “Hit her back!!” That brought immediate shrieks of terror as Corrie yelled, “NOOOOOOOO!!!” Now, I don’t know if Corrie was afraid she would hurt her little sister, or just plain afraid of her little sister, but she never would hit her back. It was probably just as well that Corrie didn’t hit Amy, because through the years, they have always been good friends. They never did fight very much. I guess that it is pretty hard to fight alone, so when your sister won’t hit you back, the fight is…well, over!
Now the same thing did not apply to other children who got on Amy’s bad side. When Amy was just about 2 years old, and about the same time as Corrie’s little mishap with her, the girls began going into the nursery at the bowling alley, while I bowled on a league. One day as I was bowling, I heard this blood curdling scream coming from the nursery. It was a scream that I quickly recognized as my youngest daughter. I ran up to the nursery to see what was going on in there. I asked the nursery attendant what had happened…concern showing on my face, I’m quite sure. She quickly reassured me that everything was just fine…now. Then she explained that one of the other children in the nursery had decided that Amy was like a little toy doll or something, and tried to pick her up. Well, after that scream, that child…and all the others knew that you could play with that toy doll, but do not pick her up…ever!!!
The years have flown by, and that little tiger cub is all grown up…though still not tall. There is one thing that I can say about Amy, and that is…she can take care of herself. She’s not a fighter or a bully. In fact, she really never was…even when she needed to defend herself. She is simply a force to be reckoned with. So, during her teen years, while I won’t lie and say I never worried, I did know that she was pretty capable of taking care of herself, and it really was the other guy who might want to watch out. Amy is a gentle spirit that is quiet and kind. She looks for friends, not enemies. She looks for the best in people, and that is a trait that maybe more of us should have…me included.
While most of the time my two oldest grandchildren have been good friends, being the same age did sometimes cause some vying for superiority. As toddlers, kids don’t understand the whole boys don’t hit girls thing. They are just two kids who can play well together one minute, and have a huge fight the next minute. The key to most of these little fights is…”I had it first!” It doesn’t matter who it belongs to…except to the one who thinks that ownership should give them the advantage.
No, it doesn’t matter who the item belongs to, or even if it is a toy at all, or in this case, how much a child hates being in the car seat. It’s all about the fact that one child is enjoying the item a little too much. Then it begins. That whole, “it’s mine” or “I had it first” thing. Have you ever really seen a child who likes being buckled into their car seat…at any age? No, of course not. So, what makes that same car seat seem so important when it is in the house and they don’t have to be in it? Well, that’s just it…they don’t have to be in it. They can pretend that it is something else, and not a car seat. Maybe they are driving the car…like their parents do or maybe it is just a chair. Whatever it is, the child who didn’t have the idea, tends to have a problem with it.
It’s the fact that for just a few minutes, one child decided it might be fun to be in the car seat…just as long as it wasn’t a requirement, and the other child though it was a great idea, but there was only one car seat in the house, and there you have it. The recipe for disaster…or at least a perceived disaster. And with that, two great friends, are at each other’s throats.
And then as quickly as it began, they are over it. Because toddlers or kids in general for that matter, never stay angry for very long. They explode in anger, and then something new catches their eye or occupies their mind, and they are friends again. Because after all, they really didn’t really want the sit in a car seat anyway. They hate those things!