On our twin grandsons’ sixth birthday not long ago O found out that the best response for a gift is not, “A dinosaur? Why did you give me a dinosaur? I don’t even like dinosaurs.”
“Guys, let’s go out and have a little talk,” said my daughter, smiling apologetically at the little neighbor girl, and her mother, who’d been kind enough to bring over the gifts.
“That was an embarrassing eye-opener,” she said about five minutes later after the properly thanked neighbors had left. “I can see I need to really prep these guys before the birthday party.”
By official birthday party time, my grandsons had been thoroughly tutored on socially acceptable reactions to birthday gifts. To make sure they had it all down, my daughter quizzed them one last time just before their friends arrived. “What do you say if you already have three of something and you get another one?” she asked. “What do you say if you really don’t like the present? or What if you think the gift looks more like a girl toy than a boy gift? What if you think the toy is too small?” etc. etc. My grandsons totally aced the review. Sure enough a little later at the party, as they unwrapped gift after gift, we heard simple, clear thank you’s with no additional commentary. Some of the thank you’s, it’s true, were more enthusiastic than others, but they were nevertheless all polite and appropriate.
Me? I was feeling a sense of loss. Yes, I understand that children eventually need to learn not to blurt out any old thing, and that people’s feelings need to be considered. I taught these lessons to my own children. But I also realized with sadness that those completely candid and forthright little boys were disappearing into more sophisticated more socially aware children. I even mourned the fact that there was a possibility neither one would ever let me know again that I have a fat stomach, or that I must be at least a hundred, because I am sooooo old. Though these comments made me wince a little, recommit to a diet, and consider a facelift, I couldn’t help but laugh because they were so delightfully refreshing in today’s deceitful world. Luckily, we still have younger grandchildren, and the twins’ little brother is just learning to talk. I’m pretty sure he’ll soon have some interesting things to say. I have the feeling some of his comments will be just as wonderfully inappropriate. I’m secretly very glad about that.