A friend of ours was cooking dinner with her just-turned-two granddaughter in the kitchen with her. She suddenly realized that the child had managed to move a chair over and was on the chair, at the stove. Grandmama rushed over and told the little girl that the burner was hot and would burn her hand if she got it too close. She carefully held the little girl's hand somewhat near the burner, to give her the idea. She told the little girl she must not put her hand on the burner because it would burn her hand.
So, what did the little girl do when Grandmama let go of her hand?
She put her elbow on the burner.
Of course she did. Grandmama had explained about what would happen to that hand. Not that elbow. Silly Grandmama.
The girl will be fine, but she did get a lovely small burn, I'm told.
This is the same child that a few days ago was on a drive in the country with Mama and Papa, out exploring the forest. The parents stopped near a firetower to take in the view. They warned the little girl not to get out of the car, because they were near a steep slope and if she got near the steep slope she and the snow would go sliding way down the hill very fast and get hurt and maybe they couldn't get to her if she went down there. (You know where I'm going with this, don't you?) A couple minutes later, at most, there was knocking above the parents' heads. Daughter was not in the car. Daughter, carefully avoiding the steep slope as instructed, had climbed the icy steps of the firetower, all the way to the top, and was knocking on the door for the lookout guard's quarters. This time of year there is no lookout person on duty. Papa was volunteered to go and get Daughter down, Mama being afraid of heights. I don't think Papa likes heights either, but he managed somehow, for his family's sake.
Daughter didn't understand the fuss, I'm told. Daughter had been told to not go down over there. So what could be wrong about going up over here?
Most families I've known have a ready supply of stories like this, if they've had toddlers in the fold. The most common one I've heard is that when you teach the child to not put his hand in the cookie jar, you must expect to have to repeat the lesson for the other hand. Getting in trouble for using the right hand for something, after all, doesn't necessarily mean that you will get in trouble for using the left hand doing exactly the same thing. Not if you really want to do whatever it is, at any rate. At least in toddler-think.
One of my favorite stories on these lines involves an older brother of mine. My parents were going to repaint part of the house and he was eager to help. They told him he could help paint in the morning, but he had to go to bed now. (You know where I'm going with this, too, don't you?) In the morning, my parents were awakened by an eager, helpful tot who said he needed help getting the other paint can open.
The other can?
Upon arising, which I understand was done in some haste, they found that he had used up an entire can of paint and was, indeed (thank goodness) having no luck at all in opening the second can.
His idea of painting, by the way, involved painting all the canned goods in the pantry and putting a racing stripe down the stairwell... Since he'd painted over the labels on the cans, fixing dinner was an adventure for a while, since there was no way to know ahead of time what you were opening for dinner. Or so I'm told. This was before my time.
Engaging the Natural World - African-American poets write about nature from a perspective of working the land or engaging it personally. [...]
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