Such a loud scream from such a little kid.
“I can’t do it. It hurts!”
My heart went out to the child. And I would have believed the child with a cast on leg broken at the playground except … except, well I just didn’t think that a week after a simple break disabled the entire body, no matter how awful it felt.
So I looked at the tiny tike in my care for the day and decided it was time for The Little Engine that Could. The engine that went chugging up the mountain puffing, “I think I can, I think I can” and rolled down the mountain singing, “I thought I could, I thought I could.”
I looked at the pathetic puddle of pain, sat down on the ground myself and cheered the whimpering one into trying a new way to move: Scooting along on her bottom with one leg pushing and the other up in the air.
The younger sibling, just learning to walk, grinned and joined us on the floor. We skedaddled as a trio down the hall to the bathroom and then the two slid around house on their bottoms for the rest of the day. I heard no more about the horrible pain … until their momma returned.
As soon as the door opened, the child reverted to whimpering and whining and crying. She could not possibly go over to the other side of the room to greet her mother. That was just too hard. It hurt too much.
Although the mother had been tip toeing around pain filled cries for days, I reassured her that the child had smiled, laughed and scooted everywhere on her bottom the entire day. But, only the pathetic pleas caught the mother’s ear. She scooped up her child and gently carried her pain riddled child to the car and drove gingerly home.
It’s easy to believe every pitiful whine from a child. Even with years of experience, it happens to me all the time. I am swept away with their misery, their bold statements and their emphatic insistences that they can not do something.
My education otherwise began before I married. My fiancé supervised pre-school aged nephews preparing to spend a night at their grandmother’s house. He told them to grab their little suitcases and take them upstairs to their bedrooms.
The four-year-old grabbed his little suitcase, threw it over his back, holding it with one hand, he came whining to us in the kitchen, “I can’t do it. I can’t carry my suitcase.”
I started to reach for the suitcase. My guy said, “he already is carrying it.”
I looked. Right. So the child was.
For months we heard and accommodated the pathetic story that one grandchild absolutely could NOT take her nightly pill without milk. We figured otherwise, but pill swallowing can be an issue for some folks. Then we landed in a cabin at camp for the night with running water only and no milk in sight. In the blink of an eye without one peep or query about milk, the child gulped that pill down with water without a whimper and went to bed. So much for that “I can’t do it do it” when she was at our house — although I heard months later that she still maintained the same miserable mandate at home.
As a child, my son refused, choked, vomited and made quite a scene every time he had to take medicine. We got the medication down him when necessary, but mostly stuck with the universal cure of lots of fluids and plenty of sleep for his childhood illnesses. As an adult he developed a serious illness which necessitated he absolutely must take pills a couple times a day. From no pills he began taking many every day, all without a whimper.
Years ago, taking junior high students on a field trip, I mentioned the restaurant where we planned to stop.
“Oh no! Not there. They serve just awful food,” the most outspoken girl protested.
Mentally, I veered away from that restaurant, but before I could say anything, the trip planner took us there anyway. As the kids unloaded at that awful restaurant, I heard that same teenager say, “well they do have some nice baskets” — which the child ordered and proceeded to eat happily and completely. And to think I almost asked to change our plans for her. Lesson learned.
I could go on, but I kind of enjoy being a grandparent, allowed to simply sit back, pretend I have it all figured out and watch someone else teach the lesson of the “Little Engine that Could.”
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org)