Kids say the
derndest thingsIn honor of the new year, I'm taking an actual vacation this week and filling this space with some of my favorite columns from the past. Hope you enjoy them and the New Year. This one was published first on April 13, 1993.IT'S not easy being a dad. Especially when your kid is at the age where he or she hasn't yet learned how to lie. OK, maybe lie is a little strong. Let's say they haven't learned how to be diplomatic.
For instance, one day a friend of mine and his daughter went out to eat. He let her pick the restaurant. Instead of choosing a ritzy place where the waiters are somewhat sophisticated, his daughter picked a spaghetti joint. It was one of those places where the only decision to make is how much spaghetti you want to eat: the Noodle Bucket Bonanza; the Meatball and Marinara Monster Truck; the Jackie Gleason Memorial Platter or the World Trade Center Bomb Crater Pasta Pit with Keepsake Replica Bowl.
The busboy showed my friend and his daughter to a table and said something like, "Here's a chair for the little lady and here's one for her grandpa."
Now, my friend does have a white beard and his hair is a little wispy on top. But he's still got all of his real teeth, is in great shape and is nowhere near grandpa age. So this bus-kid's remark was like a left jab from Roberto Duran.
Thinking his daughter might have been embarrassed by the bus-boob, dad apologized to his daughter and said he would shave off his beard when they got home. She assured him everything was all right and added that the busboy wasn't talking about his beard, but probably referring to him being almost bald. Well! Dad couldn't have been more dazed if the maitre d' had cold-cocked him with a boat oar. His daughter's innocent roundhouse put my friend's self-esteem down for the count.
TO make my friend feel better, I told him about the time I dropped my little angel off at preschool one day. As readers of this column may know, I don't exactly have an Arnold Schwarzenegger-like physique. But I can still hobble in and out of a golf cart. And I was basically feeling pretty good about myself that morning until a clear-eyed little boy came up and politely asked if I was pregnant.
He was out of arm's reach, so I didn't follow my first instinct, which was to smack him into the third grade. My daughter thought it was funny because, unlike slow-witted little boys, she at least knew that only women could get pregnant. So for the next few days, when she wanted to lighten up things around the house, she'd say, "Hey, Daddy, are you pregnant?" Ho, ho!
But I'm a sensitive, loving father so I laughed, too. Besides, I have a video of her running around naked in the yard with panties on her head when she was 3 years old and I'm going to show it to her boyfriend when she turns 16.
The thing is, you are so dumbstruck when a kid says something shocking, you can't seem to think of a great retort.
Most of the time, the things kids say are merely funny or enlightening, not devastating. My daughter was looking into my ears one day and she said, "Man, it looks like a hallway. Wait here. I'm going to go get a flashlight so I can look at your brain."
Another time, she seemed a little sad, and I asked her what was wrong. She said she was worried because I was getting old. I said, "Honey, don't worry, everyone gets old. You'll be 5 next week. See? You're getting old, too."
She looked up and said, "I'm not getting old, I'm growing up."
Speaking from a totally neutral position, I think that was an amazing statement for a child. So good, in fact, that I intend to steal it. I will not grow another day older. From now on, I'm just growing up. Slowly.
Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
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