How to worry (or wisdom from the elders)

Last modified: 4/11/2013 10:35:57 AM
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.)


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