When I was little I used to think adults were crabby.
Old people especially–like my grandfather. I remember him chasing me away from his knee because I was in the view of the television set. In my memories he was a cranky old man who never smiled at me until he was sick in a nursing home–which became the moment that my 10-year old self realized something was terribly wrong with him because he NEVER smiled at me…so if he was smiling, something weird was up. He died a few weeks later.
Now that I’m older–I’m not my grandfather’s age but 8-plus years of cancer treatments has aged my body more than usual for 47–I get a sense of what might have been part of Grampa’s problem. He didn’t feel well. And when you don’t feel well, whatever your age–but especially as your body breaks down–you feel, to overuse a word–crabby.
I was trying to explain this to my kids: why some adults just seem crabby. After explaining in junior-high terms the body-related-issues that can cause extended bad moods in elders, we stumbled into adult behavior in general. Like why some adults stop speaking to each other. And why some adults stop being friends.
I tried my hardest not to over-talk it. My kids are of different ages, and there’s a vast wasteland of comprehension between a 13 year old boy and a newly-minted 10 year old girl. But I wanted them to understand a few things because we are dealing with a bit of this in our family world now, and having been a kid myself, I still remember how confusing the adults in my life were to me. I would have liked a “Teacher’s Guide To Old Person Behaviors” or something to clue me in on what I considered “weirdness”.
“Here’s the thing,” I began, with my husband by me for support and occasional “yes that’s right”s–”sometimes grown-ups stop getting along. It’s nobody’s fault, they just stop seeing things the same way.” My kids looked at me with that, so-why-don’t-they-just-agree-to-disagree’ look–with a like-you-tell-us to-do-with-our-friends eyebrow, to complete the unspoken question.
“Adults,” I continued, “don’t have to agree-to-disagree. Some adults need to be right. So if you say, “I don’t think you’re right,” they get angry.”
“That’s dumb,” one of them said.
“Yeah, maybe–but it’s also the way it goes,” I said. “Adults don’t have to follow social rules like we make you two do–they can do pretty much what they want. And if I, for example, feel like I’m right–and someone I know thinks I’m wrong–we have two choices: we can agree to disagree, or we can stand our ground. If we do the second one, we need to take a break from each other.”
“Why?” a pubescent voice asked.
“Because when adults can’t agree to disagree, adults need to take a break from each other.”
“For how long?” the other one wanted to know.
“For as long as it takes.” I answered, insecurely. That was a lame answer I thought but I didn’t know what else to say. Because I didn’t know myself.
I took another stab at it. “The thing about being an adult is that the answers to life’s big questions have to come from within. Instead of asking your mom or dad for guidance on how to behave, you have to decide for yourself.” I was wrapping it up now because this talk was getting long–and involved–and on a school night, no less: on a school night I never know if these two are actually interested in what I’m saying or just letting me talk so bedtime can be later than usual (I used to do that and it worked all the time.)
“Here’s one thing you can be sure of,” I told them as I scooted them off to their rooms, “if adults take breaks from each other, it doesn’t mean it’s forever. And it isn’t always a bad thing. It just means they’re trying to work it out–”
“It doesn’t feel like that’s what they’re doing,” said my son.
“I know, but that’s not your worry.” I assured him. “You’re just a kid, you’re not supposed to get this–”
I turned out their bedroom lights, blew them kisses and walked down the hall to my own room thinking, Hell I’m an adult and I don’t get it sometimes, either.
|Posted October 8th, 2012 by|