Freedom of Speech, Nana Style

Censorship has always been an abhorrent notion to me. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, our basic right to express ourselves as we see fit— protected as it is by our Constitution—has always been one of the central joys of my life.

Are your ideas unpopular or unorthodox? Fine with me.

However, I am afraid that becoming a grandparent is screwing with my head.

When you are a grandmother and you are trying to explain Important Things to your three-year-old granddaughter, you hear yourself in a way you never have before.

In a word, for me, I think the “way” might be called “controlling.”

Maybe I am changing—like developing an allergy to poison ivy at 60, after a lifetime of rubbing the leaves of three without consequences.

Because it doesn’t seem like a good change, there is anxiety involved.

However, I think the chances are I have always been controlling. Certainly my husband has volunteered that opinion from time to time over the years.

And he is entitled to his opinions; some of them are quite good.

If I am devolving to a darker side of my personality, and becoming—as I am beginning to worry—overly “controlling” with my granddaughter, there is certainly the large chance I might have been controlling in my relationships with my children, as their mother.

But it’s a matter of survival when you are raising little people …

It all came to a head last week when, practicing our freedom to indulge in all kinds of ideas, Lina and I took one of our now-regular visits to the library to load up on some books.

Among the stack we hauled to the car, an innocent looking children’s book by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow: “I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More!”

Yes, I noted the grammatical license in the title, and it might even have caused a twinge somewhere deep in my brain. If it did, I pushed it out of my consciousness. Hey—as it said on the book’s flap, “… one creative kid floods his world with color—and gives a silly twist to the fine art of self-expression.”

Lighten up out there. It’s a “silly” adventure.

In retrospect, as I look today at the book’s cover, I think I might have ignored another internal twinge—a warning that everything was not OK with me.

On the cover is a colorful drawing of a small child holding a pot of multicolored paint and a paintbrush, dripping with those colors. The smiling youngster is using the paintbrush on his own head—face, hair, ears, shoulders and sleeves are soaked with bright paints that are literally running off him.

The child was swimming in paint, and having a blast.

It was as I was reading the book to Lina, and she was listening carefully, waiting for the signal to turn the page, that it hit me.

Lina is only three. It’s way too early to predict that she is headed into a life of crime.

Nonetheless, she has gotten into a teeny bit of difficulty over crayons.

Twice.

A rug and a wall, I think.

Should I really be sitting here celebrating with little Lina this story about a child who puts boxes on a chair and climbs to the top of the closet to retrieve the paints his mother has put there after she takes them away from him (“Ya ain’t a-gonna paint no more!”) and puts him in the bathtub?

Has freedom of speech, perhaps, gotten a little out of hand in Montgomery County libraries? Should it be age-appropriate freedom of speech?

Which got me thinking about that darn “Cat In the Hat,” which Lina and I both nearly know by heart. …

Should Sally and her unnamed narrator brother really have let that cat in when their mother is not home? Hmmm.

Having thought all this, finally, I think about Lina herself. Even though Nana might think the book is an instruction manual for mischief, Lina knows it is only a silly story.

Phew.

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