William’s favorite thing in the whole wide world is to help his grandpa do whatever it is that Grandpa happens to be doing when he gets picked up on Saturdays. The questions start before he is even buckled into his car seat? “Where are we going?” and “What’s Grandpa doing?” and “Can I help him?” Since I’m generally headed back to where ever it is that Grandpa happens to be, it works out well that William is so anxious to help.
This past Saturday was a big day.
The newest house has a very old apple tree in the back yard that has not been trimmed in many a year. The oldest branches begin low to the ground and are just perfect for a small five year old boy to climb around in. Grandpa had trimmed the tree back substantially that morning, and William was delighted with it. He happily climbed around the “spikey haired” tree.
He discovered a robin’s egg that had blown from its nest, lying cold and unbroken on the ground. “Who colored this egg?” he wanted to know, Easter being still fresh in his mind. He was amazed that such a brightly colored egg was a natural occurrence and he set it carefully on the front porch to be polyurethaned for his nature collection.
Grandpa and I had been doing some fill in work. The downspouts from the eaves of the house did not drain properly, and so they’d been dug up and redone. After testing them out for two weeks of heavy rain, we decided that they were now functional and could be reburied. I was shoveling. Grandpa was raking. William found an old marble in the dirt.
William is a fan of tools. He loves them very much. All of them. He wants to know what they are called. He wants to know what they are for. He wants to know if he can use them. If he likes them, he wants to know if he can get one for his very own, so it wasn’t long before he had turned his attention from apple trees, old marbles and robin eggs, to the work being done.
“What’s this called?” The answer came: “It’s a pickax.” The next question was predictable: “What’s it used for?” and Tim said, “It is used for digging and pulling rocks up.” The third question followed along just as it always has: “Can I use this?”
Now on the face of it, it sounds kind of dangerous. The fact is, he could barely lift it. We had a collection of shale right there and he began hefting that pickax up 3 or 4 inches and dropping it on the shale, which cracked and crumbled in a most satisfactory way. He felt like quite the little man busting up all that rock with the pickax and he set to work with great enthusiasm.
We were standing within arm’s length of him when we saw him do it. He leaned forward to examine his latest crumbled rock and leaned right into the pick. He got a shocked look on his face and quickly turned to silently bury his face in his Grandpa’s coat. Grandpa said, “Well that’s bleeding a little bit” in his calm Grandpa voice and the wails began. There is nothing more traumatic to William than blood.
I got him something to blot the blood with. There wasn’t much. It was a scrape and a small one at that. He howled and sobbed. It was a bad boo-boo, probably the worst boo-boo in the history of the world, AND IT WAS BLEEDING! He went on so dramatically that the decision was made to take him home. He went to fetch his robin egg, still sobbing, while checking his pocket to make sure that marble was still in it.
On the way home in the car, he cried with increasing ferver about his very bad boo-boo.
“William,” I said in a practical voice. “Everyone gets boo-boos.” And just to prove my point, I showed him the knuckle I had barked earlier that very day. He looked closely from his carseat.
“Did you cry?” he wanted to know, and I answered no.
“Did it bleed?” he wanted to know. I told him yes.
“How did it stop?” I explained about how blood clots and dries and forms a scab. The scab gets smaller and smaller and eventually falls off, and underneath there is new skin. “This is called ‘healing’ and all boo-boos heal.”
This was fascinating stuff and he began to examine old boo-boos. By the time that we arrived home, he was full of chatter about healing. He asked for, and got, an Angry Bird bandaid although it really wasn’t needed at that point. By the time Grandpa arrived home just a few minutes later, William was anxious to go to the library.
And that was that.
Evidently, during the course of the next few hours, William had further processed the events of the day. He came up with a new big fear, and that big fear was that due to his accident with the pickax he would never be permitted to touch it again. So he began to tell every one he met about his accident, adding new details about the event.
The boo-boo was downgraded from a “big boo-boo” to a “medium sized boo-boo”, and there was considerable attention paid to the fact that he was “using the pickax very carefully.”
He explained it to me. He explained it to Tim. He explained to Rosemary at the library. To the lady at McDonalds. Basically everyone we met was regaled with this story, and with each telling his eyes grew wider and wider in their astonishment that such a thing would have happened given his very careful use of that pickax. By the time that his mother returned home, there were at least two more verys added to the story. He had been “very, very, VERY carefully” using the pickax.
Will he be allowed to ever touch a pickax again? Yes. Yes, he will. His injury, after all, was minor and he learned a great deal about putting things into proper perspective that day.
Mostly though, it was this: one little boy worked at the side of his grandparents, chattering away: ” ‘–‘ (naming a grown up male acquaintance) doesn’t know how to do anything but play video games. I know how to do lots more than him. My Grandpa have teached me many things.”
Yes he has, and little William is one enthusiastic student.
Let the learning continue.