Yesterday, my father and mother-in-law arrived for a visit. Frankie was thrilled, not only to see her grandparents, but also because she remembers that from the time she was tiny, she and Grandma have had a tradition of sitting on the kitchen stairs and eating chocolate together. I admired my firstborn's manners as I saw her visible inward struggle to politely refrain from immediately asking Grandma to get thyself to the stairs with a Kit Kat pronto. It reminded me of my own visits to my grandma and grandpa up north in Ellsworth. My grandma had a tradition of hiding a treat under the pillows of the beds upstairs where we stayed. It was usually a candy bar, or a new notebook and a fresh Bic pen, or maybe a dollar and a Kraft caramel. What I remember most, however, was the sheer force of good breeding that kept my sister and me from running our aged grandparents over in our eagerness to get up those steep stairs and see what was waiting for us. We'd greet them, kiss them, hug them, make some small talk, all while trying to ignore the eery siren song of a full-sized Butterfinger. Molly, congratulations to you and to me, I believe we made such a good show of our manners that perhaps Grandma thought we weren't all that interested. But, boy howdy, were we interested.
Molly warmed up quickly despite her initial reaction, which was to bury her head deep into my neck and murmur "NO" whenever someone tried to speak to her. Soon she was sharing photo albums with Grandma, pushing baby strollers into everyone's pinkie toes, and doing her patented flying squirrel antics to gasps of grandparental horror. She was not all that interested in the tradition of milk chocolate on the stairs and even handed me her Kit Kat with a look of disgust. I know she has a soft spot for suckers, but could it be that this child is not as motivated by treats? Last night at dinner, I overheard Dean tell her that no, she couldn't have more broccoli. I mean, what kind of Bizarro universe are we living in? I am used to a child who would sell me to the nearest black-market slave ring in exchange for a sleeve of Smarties.
We are starting a new book in our Sunday School class on the five love languages of children. Allegedly, they are the same as adults: Quality time, Acts of service, Gifts, Words of affirmation, and Physical touch. My sister and I agreed that they left off the most powerful love language that most children speak: Refined Sugar. Frankie receives love almost exclusively in High Fructose Corn Syrup. I could leave her in a closet without mental stimulation of any kind and deprive her of physical embrace for her entire childhood, but if I tossed her a Rolo every half hour? She'd write a memoir entitled "My Mother: The True Story of a Woman who Knew how to Love."