By Janet Walgren
I think that every mother knows how to count to ten. In fact I heard a frustrated neighbor counting uno, dos, tres… just the other day. And, when I went to the Asian grocery store last week there was a mother counting ichi, ni, san… Some things seem to be universal when a child is misbehaving. One of those things is, mothers count to ten. Ah, the memories, the stories about ten. Tales about ten continue for generations and shape the course of history.
Being the second oldest of ten children, I have done my share of reminiscing with my siblings and I have noticed something very interesting. Everyone tells stories about the number ten differently. I’m not talking about the details of an incident; they are pretty much the same. I’m talking about attitude, the spirit in which the stories are remembered and told. I’ve noticed that attitude makes an amazing difference in the life of the subject of the story, and more interestingly, the teller of the story.
There is an excellent example of what I’m talking about in the book, Love is a Verbby Mary Ellen Edmunds. Mary shared a bedroom with her sister Charlotte. Mary and Charlotte were very different personalities which is not all that uncommon among siblings. Charlotte was a compliant child and Mary was the adventurous one. At bed time, when the sisters didn’t settle in and go to sleep right away, it was not at all uncommon for Mary’s mother to count to ten. And, Mary’s mother instinctively knew whose fault it was so she would march in the bedroom, go straight to Mary Ellen’s bed and give her a spanking.
On one particular night, Mary was trying to talk Charlotte into to jumping out the second story bedroom window. She had a theory that if you bend your knees on impact, it would absorb the shock and your legs wouldn’t break. Charlotte was reluctant and refused to try the experiment. As the conversation progressed, Mary’s mother started to count, one, two, three… When she got to ten Mary knew she had to act fast, what to do… Then she had a brilliant idea.
“Charlotte lets see if we can trick mommy! Lets trade beds and see if she notices.” They exchanged beds in the nick of time. Her mother entered the bedroom, marched over to Mary’s bed and gave Charlotte a sound spanking. Then she marched out of the room saying that she didn’t want to hear another peep and told them to go to sleep.
As Charlotte lay sobbing, Mary exclaimed jubilantly, “Charlotte we did it, we tricked mommy!” Both girls were pleased and excited that they had tricked their mommy.
Imagine yourself as Charlotte. What would you say as you reminisced about that incident? What emotion would you attach to the memory? How would you paint your sibling? Would you be kind, charitable? When you told the story, would it be funny? Or, would you be the victim of a bad sibling who made your life miserable?
Happy adults find the fun and the funny in their memories. They are great story tellers and everybody love to listen to them. They discover the lessons in life and paint their associates in charitable ways as they impart their wisdom and sage advice. People love to be around these happy folks. They make life pleasant. They even make work pleasant- even when the task seems as unpleasant as testing a theory by jumping out a second story window to see if bending your knees on impact will keep your legs from breaking.
I think almost everybody has been a Charlotte who got the undeserved spanking at sometime in their life. And, most people have found it necessary to be a Mary who needed to find a quick solution to an unpleasant problem on occasion. Regardless of the situations that you have faced, or that you are currently facing, your approach, your attitude will make all the difference. And, only you can choose what that attitude will be.
What makes the difference in people’s attitudes? I believe that it is love. As you go about your life, remember Love is a Verb.