Saturday, 30 July 2016

A Lesson from the Princess

When you get around to shaking the family tree, sooner or later out tumbles a  “character” – the unique family member that makes you laugh out loud or shake your head in despair, someone like Calvin in the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, or Rumpole’s wife Hilda whom he called “She Who Must Be Obeyed.” Family characters have a way of making you sit up and take notice. You feel more alive, more challenged, more on your toes in their presence.

I have just finished spending 10 days with a little Schut family character. We’ll call her She Who Will Be Heard. As the youngest of three girls in a very busy, focused and vocal family, this six year old has learned to express herself in no uncertain terms. She has strong opinions on food, clothes, and people, and isn’t afraid to voice them. “That’s weird,” she says, looking at a highly-tattooed woman sitting beside me. “Why would someone cover their bodies with tattoos, Oma?” With arms akimbo and eyes flashing, at least once a day, she tells the world, “That’s not fair!” – and often she’s right. It’s just not fair that the bigger kids can run faster and be better at games than she is. If she could rule the world, things would be different. Because not everyone listens when she speaks, she’s gotten into the habit of leaving little notes around the house with messages or questions, such as, “Why do boy rock stars have long hair?” and a list of fat-free foods such as marshmelows, and tree top gumys (I think she was creating a menu for the family!) She Who Will Be Heard suits her exactly, but we’ll call her Princess for short.

She is six-going-on-16 where smarts are concerned, and she has her Oma wrapped around her little finger. Oma knows it, but Oma’s heart is captured, so she’s helpless. Well, you'd be in love with her too if you found this note on your pillow when you woke up from a nap:

Besides, Oma has also learned that if she listens to this little one, she will learn lots.

Seeing the world through a six-year-old’s eyes is a distinct privilege. The basic premise on which my princess  operates goes like this: WOW! This world is exciting! HEY, LOOK! HEY, LISTEN! (But not necessarily to adults who shout commands and warnings.) HEY! LET’S TRY THAT! (Which is why the adults are shouting commands and warnings.)

Last week my princess taught me something I hope I never forget, even when I am ancient and feeble and yes, forgetful. It happened when I took the five grandchildren to the swimming pool all by myself. (The RS doesn’t like swimming pools – “you gotta get wet there.”) Sometimes Omas can drop their grandkids off and sit and read while the lifeguards take over, but if you bring a 6 year old, the rules say you must be within an arm’s length of the child at all times. Oh, well,  I like swimming.

The other four children were totally independent and having a blast. I, however, was figuratively tethered to my princess, who loves pools and swimming almost as much as she loves being heard. I had my job cut out for me – there was even one heart-stopping moment when I lost sight of her as she chased a ball – or was it a tube? Or a flutter-board? Or all three? Sure, why not all three?

Well, we had fun. We tossed the ball, raced on flutter-boards, took rides on the tube, sat in the hot-tub (phew, thanks, I needed the rest), stood under the sprinkler, jumped the waves, and did it all over again. By this time the other four were jumping off the diving board and the starting blocks in the ‘big people pool’, making giant splashes and loud screeches of delight. The princess and I decided to go and watch for a while.

“Would you like to try that too?” I foolishly asked. “If you are there to catch me,” she retorted. So I had to jump into the deep end and be there for her. The jump was successful, but the princess decided jumping into deep water wasn’t her thing. Once was enough. “That’s okay,” I said as we walked back to the hot tub, “we can try it again next year, and maybe you’ll like it better.” She nodded, but was uncharacteristically quiet.

We found a seat in the warm water, and then she turned to me with an “Aha! I get it!” look on her face. “Oma, every year, as you get a little older, you get to try new things,” she said excitedly. “Each year, you get to try something new. Isn’t that great and wonderful?”

Ah, yes, it is. Yes, it is.

Wow! Look! Listen! Experience! Try something new. Get excited. And grow, keep growing until you’ve used up all your time here. And make sure that old people who sometimes forget that – like your Oma – hear the message loud and clear.

Thanks, Princess!

We rented a suite which featured this amazing Jacuzzi tub. I invited the RS to join me, but he said no ("you have to get wet, don't you?) My princess and I had a lovely time together.

1 comment:

  1. Earlier I responded to the post I received by e-mail but just wanted to add another comment. LOVE the photo of you two in the hot tub. It's a beauty of a couple of beauties.