Never try to baptize a cat...

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This gem of children’s wisdom is one of several that came across my desk the other day, and I thought I would share them with you. Children, as I am sure we have all learned, have a more direct way of looking at things that cuts right to the heart of the matter. If we listen to them, we will glean invaluable life lessons.

I am not quite sure what the lesson is to be learned from the disastrous baptismal attempt other than we must not try to force someone to do something s/he doesn’t want to do. That message becomes even more important if the other person’s views on the matter are well known.

• Never let Mom brush your hair when she’s mad at Dad. Ouch. I cringe at the mental image of a hapless child standing there while Mom mutters to herself as she attacks her child’s head as if it were her husband’s. I can only imagine how tender that kid’s scalp is going to be for the next few days.

• If your brother or sister hits you, don’t hit back. Adults always catch the second person. This makes painful sense, when you stop to think about it. Mom and Dad hear the disagreement you two are having in the other room. They monitor the decibel level until they hear the first smack as it lands. By the time they put down what they are doing and walk into the room, they’re just in time to see you deliver a well-deserved retaliatory strike. Well, drat. Most of us are veterans of what comes next. To add insult to the punishment that you receive, your time in Purgatory will make your adversary’s day absolutely perfect.

• Never ask your 3-year-old brother to hold a tomato. By the time Mom cleans up tomato bits and juice from your brother and the surrounding countryside, she just might be too tired to deliver her lecture on common sense. No sense beating on your brother for the mess he’s created or the tongue lashing you have received for setting him up in the first place – he’s three.

• You can’t trust dogs to watch your food. I imagine the author of this one learned this lesson at a very early age. I think if you trace the evolution of the word “dog,” you will discover it means “always hungry” in Cro-Magnon. How many times have you seen a toddler become distracted while she’s standing there with a cookie in her hand? The puzzled look on her face is priceless when the family dog gently devours everything but the crumbs between her fingers. Rover’s lick with a crumby tongue is a nice finale.

• Don’t sneeze when someone is cutting your hair. Oh, boy. That one is important for adults as well as children. I wonder how many times the hair cutter has had to improvise to disguise the unauthorized chunk s/he has removed as a result of said sneeze. I also wonder how many professional barbers and hairdressers have been faced with a panicked parent begging them to fix their blunder.

• Never hold a Dust-Buster and a cat at the same time. I hope the author of this piece of advice is not the same one advising us about baptizing a cat. And yes, Virginia, it’s true that cats can run up walls to launch themselves through the nearest escape hatch.

• You can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk. Poor kid. He must have been desperate. I don’t know what it is about broccoli. I never had a problem with it. Now, turnips and rutabaga are another story, especially when they are disguised to look like mashed potatoes, my favorite food in the whole world. Mom, bless her heart, did not inflict the clean plate rule when that white fluffy pile on my plate turned out to be something besides potatoes.

• Don’t wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts. I think everyone has a polka-dot story or one that’s painfully similar. My story involves sitting in the back of the church at a military wedding. I watched some poor man – whom I did not know very well – escort the bride’s mother all the way up the aisle with big, black dots flashing through his summer white uniform trousers. Didn’t really need to know that he was a boxer man.

• The best place to be when you’re sad is Grandma’s lap. I am sure we all remember how safe we felt there. I almost know the exact day I realized that I had grown too big to crawl in anyone’s lap when things went bad. I didn’t know it then, but that was my very first step along the way to adulthood.

Children not only say the darndest things, they regularly offer up gems of wisdom that even the most mature of us would do well to heed. All we have to do is listen.