My daughter-in-law brought homemade cinnamon rolls to our Thanksgiving Day celebration. Our family decided to get together all day, so we started with breakfast. She asked me what I thought of her cinnamon rolls even though everyone else had already raved about them.
“I don’t know if they’re really good,” she said, “or if everyone is just saying they are to spare my feelings because I’m pregnant.”
So she asked me.
I have a reputation in my family for speaking my mind without regard for people’s feelings. I have this reputation for two reasons:
- I have a high regard for the people I love and their ability to accept my opinions.
- I am an insensitive asshole.*
I tried her cinnamon rolls. While I was eating one, it occurred to me that if anyone spared her feelings, it was because they love her. I asked her, “Would you rather experience some doubt about yourself knowing that your friends and family love you, or would you rather be certain but know that they do not?”
She thought about it for a minute. “I don’t know,” she said.
“They’re very good,” I said. Indeed, they were.
*I sometimes shamelessly use the first reason as cover for the second. I’m sorry. I’m only human.
My brother, Mark, died with grace and aplomb. His deaths were always flawless. Whether he was shot by Indians, stabbed by a pirate, or murdered by the Mob, he always died with such finesse.
Of course, we all took turns dying. The barn was the perfect place for it. There were stacked bales of hay with a pile of loose hay just below to cushion your fall. One by one we would climb to the top bale, clutch the wound where the bullet entered, and pitch headlong into the hay below. Yet Mark always made it seem so realistic.
One time he seemed not to notice he had been shot. He put his hand to his chest as if he had an itch. Then he pulled it away, staring with surprise at the warm, red blood on his hand. His eyes glazed over, and he fell face first and spread-eagle into the hay. Another time, the impact of the bullet knocked him into a half-turn. His arms went up as if he expected to by picked up by a gentle deity. Then he fell backward into the hay like a rag doll. Once dead, he also would linger longer in his final pose; it lent a greater air of verisimilitude to his death to see him lying there unmoving, not even breathing, for what seemed much too long for play.
I have six children. Most are grown now, so I’ve had the opportunity to see them go from infancy to adulthood. Here are a few things I’ve learned.
- Young children prefer bland food. The younger they are, the more they prefer bland food. A toddler will happily eat a slice of white bread or a bowl of plain rice or a slice of bologna. Adults prefer more complex fare, and we often don’t understand why kids like food that seems so uninteresting. One reason may be that children’s taste receptors are more sensitive than adults. Some studies seem to confirm it.
- Children are all about that bass. Children can hear high frequencies better than adults. This lasts into young adulthood. In fact, some business owners have broadcast high-pitched sounds to drive away teens. Teens may have the last laugh, though. They have added ringtones to their smartphones inaudible to their teachers. Because they hear high frequencies better, they are always turning up the bass to match the volume of the highs they hear so well. Adults may find this irritating.
- Tired children are completely irrational. Do not attempt to reason with a tired child. This may be true for some adults, too. If you encounter a recurring issue requiring correction, do not address it with a tired child. It will quickly escalate into a full-scale donnybrook. Pick a time when both of you are rested and refreshed. Keep the conversation reasonable and low-key. Listen to understand. Like everyone else, children want respect and experience being loved primarily as being respected.
I may add to this as time permits.