Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - January 15, 2010

Out of the mouths of kids: collective wisdom for 2010

by Nancy McGaraghan

"That's not funny; it's odd."

So said Lucy, with a perfectly straight face, when I laughed at something she said. Lucy is our 2 1/2-year-old granddaughter. No doubt she heard the rejoinder from someone else. Now she uses it whenever she doesn't understand why others are laughing, especially at her.

Sometimes she says it just to get a rise, which it always does. Lucy loves a good laugh.

We had a houseful of grandkids with us for the holidays. They kept us laughing. But we all know that some of the funny things kids say have a surprising ring of clarity. Throughout the week, prophets of all stripes offered predictions and advice for the New Year. Unlike those sages who inhabit the hallowed halls of power and fame, these kids ran through the hallways of our house having fun — and telling it like it is. Some of their comments were as helpful as any I've heard in terms of making sense of the past decade (or nine-tenths of a decade, as some say) and getting a grip on life in 2010.

Here is some of what the kids had to say:

Starting with Lucy, humor has to be at the top of the list. For example, how can we not say to the Christmas Day underwear wannabe airplane bomber, "That's not funny; it's odd." In spite of its seriousness, this stunt provoked smirks all around. We know danger and botched security when we see it. Laughter doesn't make things right but it helps us deal with things that aren't.

Resolution number one: Funny or odd, a good laugh is good medicine.

Next, from 5-year-old Gus: "Don't take the bait."

Gus and I were making pies in the kitchen when out of the corner of my eye I noticed that part of our hedge was being sawed down by over-zealous tree trimmers. I flew out the door in a panic. And, yes, fuming. Gus came to the rescue — the tree trimmers' and mine — saying, "Don't take the bait, Grandma. Don't take the bait." Since I had already chomped down pretty hard on the bait, all I could do was let it go.

Resolution number two: Don't take the bait. Chill. Give folks a break. Don't let the naysayers ruin your day. Get some perspective. Just ask Gus. Without perspective, we would have had burned pies, a much bigger problem in his eyes.

Jack, wise and ever practical at age 7, says: "Get a job."

We had just passed by the building where I used to work and I said I missed having a 9-to-5 job. Post retirement, I seem to work more, get less done and get paid too little to notice. "Just get a job, Grandma." Life is simple when you are 7. But Jack had a point, and an especially good one for the start of the New Year. Even if I don't have a job, I can come up with a plan for what I need to do this year and how I am going to do it.

Everyone needs a plan. Mr. Bernanke, we need mortgages and housing prices that people can afford. What's your plan? Ms. Napolitano, we need security from crazy people who are a threat to our security. Show us what you've got. Mr. President, we need jobs and health care and a free and safe world in which to watch our kids and grandkids grow up. Lives are on the line. What's your plan?

Resolution number three: Get a job or have a plan. And do something that matters.

Finally, from Paige, who is 20 months old: "More God."

Every family needs a spiritual leader and Paige might be ours. When we were all gathered at the dinner table, she held out her hands, smiled and said, "God." She wanted to say grace before we ate. And after we had all said our "thank-you's" and "God bless you's," she said, "More God." So we went around again. Religion is barely surviving in our family, but this little girl reminded us of the need to be grateful — grateful for our connections, for belonging, for family and friends, for life itself. The Christmas Day bomber and others like him should know about this, too.

Resolution number four: More God. More simple pleasures. More gratitude.

That is the shared wisdom of the grandkids for the New Year: Have some fun. Chill and give folks a break. Have a plan and do things that count. And, finally, more God. Our thank-you's might be our most solid connection to life itself in this sometimes crazy world.

Thanks for the wisdom, kids, and thanks for all the ways you make us laugh. Good job.

Happy Twenty Ten. n

Nancy McGaraghan is a member of the Weekly's Board of Contributors. She can be e-mailed at chezmcg@hotmail.com.

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