Now don’t get too concerned. The children have not been exposed to anything traumatic such as electric-shock therapy ... that I know of. We have simply had ties to our local university and many of their psychology and counseling students have used our children to fulfill class requirements to observe early childhood development. In exchange, my wife and I received free babysitting, a win-win relationship in my book. I am not above pawning off my children for a date with my wife.
Recently, a close friend and her boyfriend came over to visit with our children. He is completing his nursing studies and was required to meet with, observe and ask a few questions of our children. The exchange was funny, so, with his permission, I thought I would share a small excerpt of this conversation.
At one point during the visit, he started to interview our oldest daughter, who is now 5 years old. As a nursing student and a single male, he has had somewhat limited contact with children, which is probably why this interview was required by the school. However, from this exchange, you can see that his understanding of a 5-year-old mind, and how it will interpret certain questions, is still evolving.
After a series of simple questions, he asked our daughter an abstract question that was challenging for her.
"How would you describe yourself?" he asked
She thoughtfully considered his question, "Um."
Seeing that she was struggling with this abstract question, he decided to help by giving her an example. So he offered, "You know, if I was describing myself, I would say I was smart and handsome. What would you say?"
Our daughter gave him a strange look and responded clearly, but kindly, "Um, that is very nice, but you are not right for me."
The room erupted in laughter. Now I must admit, I am one proud papa in that my daughter is already turning down the perceived advances of an older man ... even if they were unfounded. I am also proud that she did it in such a manner to save his feelings, although she must have thought he was quite conceited and was probably confused by his laughter.
The rest of the interview went without incident, the assignment was completed and probably more importantly, a lesson was learned. For future nurse, the lesson was learned on the developmental and communication skills of a 5-year-old — the tangible, linear thinking versus the abstract thought of larger concept like “self.” For me, the lesson was that I have a well-trained daughter.
Now, the trick is for me to convince her to adopt that phrase until Daddy is ready to let go ... which, considering my lenient parenting and liberal life views, should be no later than the age of 30.
(Editor’s Note: Matt Ryerson has a beautiful family: his wife, son, two daughters — none of whom is ready to date — Tucker, the family dog, and now they are down to seven chickens. “Father Time” appears in alternating Wednesday editions of the Cleveland Daily Banner.)