Funny how I was reminded of this very thing a few weeks ago while on Kaua'i.
|Jack, Eli, and Barbara on the pier at Hanalei Bay last month|
You see, while we sat by the pool enjoying a sweet ocean breeze rippling through the palm trees, my nephew Eli shared a memory with me, one that left me reeling with shock and of which I have no memory at all.
|Matt, Me, and Eli reading a book together many years ago |
before my hair turned gray
When he was young, the family had gathered at my parents-in-law's home in Boulder, Colorado. We decided to go to a movie, but it wasn't the movie Eli wanted to see, so he whined and cried on the way.
As he remembers it, during the drive to the theater, I told him, "Eli, you're acting like a brat."
For the record, I officially deny ever saying such a sentence to any child, much less a beloved nephew. I have told my own children they were "not behaving nicely," which is an example of the rhetorical trope of litotes and sounds much better than "you're acting like a brat" but means exactly the same thing.
Eli, however, actually appreciated my saying this to him, and ever since, when he catches himself whining about not getting his way, he remembers that Aunt Susan, the woman who read books to him and talked to him and spent time with him, and whom he admired and thought "cool," called him out for acting like a brat. Even today, these words resonate with him.
Because if Aunt Susan says it, he needs to listen.
His mother claims that she had told him he was acting like a brat a number of times, but he never listened to her. In fact, she brought up the very good point that our moms are constantly telling us to behave and not pitch fits, but we tune our moms out simply because they are always saying these things.
Blah, blah, blah, whatever, Mom. *insert rolling eyes here*
When another adult says something, however, we listen much better.
Of course, this aunt never called her nephew a brat, but if it has helped Eli, well, I concede that might be what he heard. But I never said it.
When I'd gotten over the shock of Eli's gratitude for something I never said, I remembered a similar instance in my own early childhood when an adult told me a truth that I actually heard. I was five and our preschool class was outside picking up pecans and eating them. I was far too busy running and playing and having fun to pick up pecans, so when I got hungry, I plopped down next to a random grown-up and said, "I'm ready for some pecans now."
And yes, I said "PEE-cans" because we were in southern Georgia at the time, and that's how they say pecans down South. For the record, I now say "peh-CAHNS" because I don't live in Georgia anymore and people look at me funny if I say it any other way. Unless, of course, I want to annoy George, in which case I say "PEE-cans" really loud and with a pronounced Southern twang that adds an extra syllable so it sounds like "PEE-ca-yuns."
But back to the story. The man replied, very matter-of-factly, "I picked up these. You need to pick up your own."
I was stunned.
You mean to tell me I'm NOT a princess to be waited upon by men?
You mean to tell me that a grown-up isn't going to share with me?
You mean to tell me to get off my ass and get my own?
Well, all righty then. I got up and scavenged my own pecans.
The man helped me crack the pecans since my five-year-old hands weren't yet strong enough to crack them. I remember the lesson and his kindness afterwards.
I wonder if he does.
What words spoken to you influenced your understanding of life? Please share your story!