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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Wednesday, October 7, 2009 • Posted October 7, 2009

Grandparents and Free Speech…

Many folks live 50 years or longer without exercising first amendment rights, but when “grandparenting” comes along, they catch up fast.

If vocal chords had muscles, they’d be ripped, as they say, by the ongoing blather old-timers trumpet about their grandchildren. They do so without discrimination, typically yapping away to anyone who’ll listen to minute descriptions of intelligence, strength, agility, courage, and all-around comeliness embodied in specific grandchildren—theirs….

  • * * * *

The masses are typically polite, despite having heard such bragging many times before. They smile and nod, hopeful that their response will suggest sincere interest in the discourse. In the recesses of their brains, however, they’re plotting a hasty exit.

Who has not faked a laugh when asked by a grandpa or grandma if they’d like to see pictures of their “pride and joy?”

Never mind that such braggarts—and we are many—have pulled this “bit” off literally hundreds of times. Mechanically, we reach for our wallets with gusto, ready to litter life’s highway with laughs about photographs of our “Pride” (furniture polish) and “Joy” (dishwasher detergent). Our “victims,” for the “umpteenth time,” go along, really wishing we’d go away. But we don’t. Instead, we follow the joke with a bundle of grandkids’ photos, each with a tiring narrative that induces hair-hurting….

  • * * * *

Before going too far down this trail, it should be pointed out that life has a way of “balancing out.”

Many times what we consider cute, clever or cunning by grandkids, their parents hold opposite views—like ugly, clumsy or stupid. Average the extremes, and a more balanced view of kiddos’ capers emerges.

Somewhere between our evaluation of grandkids and where their parents believe them to be is a true assessment of where they really are….

  • * * * *

Count me among those people who are easily amused by what kids say. It seems that every generation comes up with remarks never made before. Or, more likely, that we’ve forgotten along the way. So what if we get second, third and maybe even fourth chuckles from children’s repeated shenanigans?

We treat jokes the same way, sometimes laughing hardest at old chestnuts that we can “mouth” right along with the teller. At a speaking engagement years ago, a fellow asked me if he could use some of my jokes. “You may if you don’t mind telling third-hand jokes,” I kidded.

Sometimes other relatives get involved. My brother Fred, as a second grader, made this pronouncement: “I come from a broken home…most of it I broke myself.” (And he did…)

  • * * * *

Art Linkletter made a fortune probing the minds of youngsters on his radio and TV shows. And TV’s long-running America’s Funniest Home Videos capitalizes on kids’ capers to assure ongoing audience approval.

Linkletter would have had a field day with the second-grader who said he was often too tired to go “on-line” for computer games. His password did him in: SupermanBatmanGoofyDonaldPorkyHueyDeweyLouie.

“I just wish my password didn’t need at least eight characters,” he moaned….

  • * * * *

This may be hard to capture in print, but I’ll try. The central figure is Shelli Balch. The scene is her home in China Spring, Texas, where as a second-grader, she faced her first challenge in multi-tasking. She was studying subtraction at about the same time she jotted down her first “call back” telephone number at home. (Note: Her teacher, from the “old school,” called it “take away,” as many of us remember subtraction instruction.)…

  • * * * *

Her parents, Jackie and Beverly Balch, remember it this way: Shelli wrote down a callback number: 836-4635.

Her mom, in the other room, asked Shelli to “call out” the number. Her daughter interrupted her “subtraction homework” to do so. She shouted back: “Mom, it is 836 (pause), ‘take away’ 4635.”

Sounds logical to me. And allow a “shout out” to the Balches. Keep on re-telling this account to friends. It’s worth repeating!...

  • * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker and author in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.

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