Mom would have loved my 6-year-old granddaughter Emily, because in a lot of ways Mom WAS Emily – or Emily is Mom, depending on how you look at it.
It isn't a "look" thing. Mom had black hair and olive skin – Emily is as fair and blonde as they come. It's more of an attitude thing.
Mom was kind and loving and had a tender heart, but you didn't want to cross her. If she was not pleased, you knew it. And if she felt you needed a piece of her mind, she would serve it up without garnish. Whereas my father could tell you to go to the hot and fiery nether regions in such a way that you would actually look forward to the trip, Mom would just tell you to go there – directly – and leave it at that.
At her funeral 30 years ago, the most common phrase spoken about her was this: "You always knew where you stood with her." Most people saw that as a positive thing about her. I know I did.
Occasionally. Emily is similarly direct. She's not mean-spirited – usually. She just says what's on her mind. Not too long ago she was sitting on her grandmother's lap while the two of them engaged in animated conversation. Suddenly Emily broke away from the dialogue to ask: "Grandma, why do you have so many wrinkles on your face?"
Thankfully, Grandma understood that she wasn't being rude or insensitive.
She was just being Emily. A couple of weeks ago we were visiting Emily's family when she came home from school, clearly frustrated with one of her classmates. I didn't hear the first part of the story, but my ears perked up when I heard her say: "He does it every day!"
"Who does what every day?" I asked, concerned that my granddaughter was somehow being mistreated by a young man who, if it was true, was about to start losing body parts.
"This boy in my class," Emily said. "Every day at lunch he takes some milk."
Well, that wasn't what I was expecting.
"And that's a bad thing?" I asked.
"No," Emily said. "But then every day he sits there and talks about how much he hates milk. And I just want to say to him, 'Dude, don't take the milk!'"
Her mother, Jen – I'm sure you can see Jen's picture if you Google "World's Sweetest Person" – was shocked.
"Emily!" she said. "You didn't actually say that to the boy, did you?"
"No," Emily said, taking a fierce bite out of a post-school cookie, "but I'm going to tomorrow!"
While Jen had a little heart-to-heart with Emily, I found myself thinking about how much my granddaughter reminded me of my mom. Only Mom would have said, "Waste not, want not" or something similarly Franklinesque. To be honest, I kind of like Emily's bold, direct approach, and I think I'll be using it on myself for the next little while. When I'm inclined to whine about feeling so tired in the morning, I'll just say to myself: "Dude, don't stay up so late!" When I have the urge to rationalize the whys and wherefores of letting my belt out another notch: "Dude, don't order the fries!" And when I roll my eyes and complain about the sorry state of prime time TV: "Dude, put down the remote!"
Life issues to each of us a complete set of traumas, tragedies, aggravations and frustrations with which we have to cope. We don't choose them, and we can't control them. They just happen, like it or not. The last thing we need to do to ourselves is to pile on a bunch of self-inflicted angst. So if you're doing something – anything – that is causing additional distress and frustration in your life, Emily has some advice for you:
Dude, don't! (To read more by Joseph B. Walker please go to www.josephbwalker.com.)