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How to worry (or wisdom from the elders)
My wife, Susan and I spent a recent weekday with our 5-year-old grandson at a nearby ski area.
While his parents took to the big slopes, we took Grandson for a well-supervised beginner’s ski lesson. Then we took him for a well-supervised hour or so on the rock-climbing wall in the ski lodge. Then we took him for a well-supervised turn piloting a kid-sized snowmobile around and around in a circle. Then we took him back for another hour on the rock-climbing wall. Then we had a nice late lunch. Then his parents came back and rescued us.
We realized afterward that Grandson had spent the whole time with us without a worry in the world.
Well-supervised, well-protected with pads and helmets, well-behaved, he went from activity to activity with boundless energy. Yet he didn’t seem to need a whole lot of lecturing about the potential dangers surrounding him.
It was not that way when I was a kid. Life, my father taught me, was full of threats. I learned to worry early, and constantly. And when I lapsed into carefreeness for a moment, he was there to bring me back to his reality. He would say, back in the 1940s:
∎ Accidents can happen.
∎ Accidents will happen.
∎ Candy can rot your teeth.
∎ Be good or you’ll be sorry.
∎ This won’t hurt a bit. Trust me.
∎ That mole will have to come off.
∎ Don’t pick that. It’ll get infected.
∎ This will only hurt for a little while.
∎ This may hurt a lot. Grit your teeth.
∎ Too much of that will make you sick.
∎ We’re not made of money, you know.
∎ Get your clothes dirty and you’ll be sorry.
∎ Put a T-shirt on or you’ll get skin cancer.
∎ If the A-Bomb hits Boston, you’re dead meat.
∎ A dog is just a heartbreak waiting to happen.
∎ A leg ache is a serious thing. Could be polio.
∎ Turn that down. You could burst an eardrum.
∎ Don’t cross the street. You could get run over.
∎ Keep reading that stuff and you’ll rot your brain.
∎ Santa’s probably not coming here this Christmas.
∎ Keep that up and you’ll end up in reform school.
∎ If you don’t wear your hat, you’ll catch your death.
∎ If a big tidal wave hits Lynn Beach, we’ll all drown.
∎ Play with matches and you’ll burn the house down.
∎ If you don’t brush right, all your teeth could fall out.
∎ Don’t worry. Nobody’s under the bed. I don’t think.
∎ Did you know some
spiders can grow as big as your fist?
∎ That sliver will have to come out before gangrene sets in.
∎ If you make that face once too often, it’ll freeze that way.
∎ If you don’t learn to save, you’ll end up in the poorhouse.
∎ Hear that noise? Probably means a major engine overhaul.
∎ Some people die from eating ice cream too fast. Be careful.
∎ If you don’t go to sleep right now, the bogeyman will get you.
∎ Stomp around like that and the whole house could fall down.
∎ Don’t walk the tracks. You know what happened to Uncle Earl.
∎ Don’t worry. You’ll understand about sex when the time comes.
∎ If you go swimming right after lunch, you’ll get cramps and drown.
∎ What’ll you do when you lose an oar out there? Ever think of that?
∎ Put your mittens on or you’ll get frostbite and your fingers will fall off.
∎ If you don’t know how to work with your hands, you’ll never get a job.
∎ Go over the handlebars just once and you could knock all your teeth out.
∎ If I don’t treat that scrape with iodine they may have to amputate your leg.
∎ A freak storm could capsize the boat at any time. Always wear the life jacket.
∎ Don’t run with that lollipop in your mouth. You could fall and choke to death.
∎ Keep picking your nose like that and some day your finger will get stuck up there.
∎ Unless you start behaving right now, this is the last time we take a vacation like this.
∎ Look into the sun – even by accident, even for a second – and it’ll blind you forever.
∎ If the cops come to this house again, they’ll be taking you with them when they leave.
∎ ∎ ∎
I don’t recall giving our son quite as much to worry about while he was growing up. Maybe that’s why his son is – apparently – so worry-free.
Wish I could say the same about myself.
(Larry Chase of Andover is a recovering corporate American.)