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On the ThirdDay of Christmas, I took my nephew’s boyz to the park, mostly to get outside in the spitting snowstorm in hope of catching some Christmas spirit. Georgie said he wanted to stop for Gelato on the way to the park, but I suggested it always tastes better when your patootie’s half-frozen off.

The boyz were a few years too old for the gym equipment, which they quickly started stressing to what seemed near their limit. I finally called a halt to the destruction, and Ronnie turned into a defensive attorney, questioning my judgment in the matter. I could see the spring threatening to pull loose from the concrete base and the wild gyrations which simple momentum might have propelled Ronnie and that kiddie butterfly ride into the face of another kid. I couldn’t quite encourage Ronnie to listen, him being so busy ignoring my perspective and all, so I left. Up and walked away, not looking back.

Both boyz quickly caught up to me, where Ronnie acknowledged that he was hoping he’d manage to stress-fracture that toy, or, more attractively, that his brother might. I cancelled the plans for gelato, so Georgie turned into the defensive attorney. On the long way around walk back to the place, I found myself asking the kids if they thought grown-ups ever got scared. They were skeptical. I called an audible, circling back to the gelato shop, thinking we might have a cozy conversation in there. We did.

I mentioned to Ronnie that it might be about time for him to learn how to distinguish between loud and scared when interpreting adult behavior. He eyed me suspiciously. “Most loudness in adults means they’re scared inside,” I proposed. That seemed unlikely to him. Georgie was so busy trying to swallow a chocolate Yule log that he wasn’t really paying any attention.

”What do adults get scared about?” Ronnie asked.

”Usually they get scared about being embarrassed in some way. They hate being wrong or appearing inept. Most horn honks are initiated by people who have just made a driving mistake.” He really looked skeptical now.

A bit later, we switched to what Ronnie was afraid of, and I think we both surprised each other. He didn’t believe that he might have the power to completely resolve that dominating fear until he heard himself explaining how he might do it. It seemed to me that we mostly never mention our terrors, hoping to ignore them away. Not every Grumpy will even broach the subject, I suppose, but I saw an opening and barged right in.

Ronnie wanted to know if when I got loud it meant that I was feeling scared, and I figured I might as well acknowledge the fact. He, of course, couldn’t see how he could be scary to anybody but his little brother, and even then, not that reliably. But he listened and he seemed to be learning. He could stop scaring some of the adults around him by sometimes being a bit less defiant and embarrassing to be with. When he ignores an adult’s direction, he might well leave the big person feeling about seven inches tall and six years old, a little person trapped in a big person’s body.

The walk home was warmer than the walk out to the park. Perhaps it was Georgie’s insistence that eating gelato really is a reliably way to stay warm in cold wind. I prefer to think it was a radiating understanding sheltering us from the wind. Nobody’s patootie even iced up on ‘em that much.

©2013 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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