Jewish World Review Dec. 22, 2003 / 27 Kislev, 5764

Russell P. Friedman

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Consumer Reports

Crinkle, Crinkle, Little Star aka — "Brekkus at Tiffany's" | My little niece Maddie is 26 months old. She's in a warp-speed learning curve that sometimes ingests language through her unique filter and spits it out as only she can. Her rendition of Crinkle, Crinkle, Little Star, accompanied by outstretched arms to help her audience see just how high above said star resides, is as heart and soul warming as the human condition can withstand.

This began a few months ago, and sadly has already been eclipsed by the correct, but less delicious pronunciation, Twinkle, Twinkle. Even though Maddie's verbal skills have upgraded, I don't think I'll ever be able to hear those words or that melody without transposing them to Crinkle, Crinkle. Maddie has moved onward and upward in her toddler paced progression that will surely wind up at Harvard, Stanford or Yale - but who's biased?

I know that most people have similar tales of their children's early language delights. I mentioned this to Esther at the desk next to mine, and she went on an instant reverie. She recalled the day, nearly 11 years ago, when her daughter Carina was 4 and said the word "breakfast" properly, for the first time - instead of "brekkus." Even as she told me, Esther remembered her own sadness at the ending of that unique verbal interpretation of the morning meal.

With all the sweetness and humor attached to this topic, there's also a more serious side; indeed a "grief" side. As our children grow and change, we automatically miss the way they were. We hark back fondly to their Crinkle Crinkle and Brekkus days. We miss what had become familiar, and we sometimes resist changes - theirs and ours. It's only natural, but not necessarily good.

On a larger scale, as we grow older, we also look back at our lives and earlier times. Sometimes our reverse-vision is rose colored and we re-invent a past that sounds more perfect than it really was. That too is natural, even though not always accurate and therefore not helpful.

Reality dictates that we cannot lock ourselves, our loved ones, or anyone else into a permanent, unchanging existence. The only constant in life is change. But, the most difficult thing for people to deal with is change. The brain is dedicated to "stasis" and resists change at all costs. None of this is new. A quick google finds this quote from Marcus Aureleus (121-180) Roman emperor (161-180):

Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the Universe loves nothing so much as to change the things which are, and to make new things like them.

When anything familiar changes, as it must and will, we are left to deal with the feelings created by the change. Grief is created by the change or end in anything familiar. That's a definition we use to help people understand the often confusing range of emotions attached to so many different life events.

Compounding the fact that change itself creates emotions is the unfortunate reality that we are not very skilled at dealing with those natural emotions caused by the loss or end of familiar things. Whether it is in response to our children's growth and movement in their own lives, or more major, life altering losses, we must acquire effective skills for dealing with the mixture of emotions generated by those ongoing events.

The emotional phenomenon attached to change is not limited to family reveries and sad events. Our world is changing too, at what sometimes seems to be an impossibly fast pace. If we can agree that change is difficult to accommodate, then we can see why and how differences of opinion on matters of political and social concern can become sources of conflict between people and peoples.

We take no side in any debates, other than to suggest that folks follow the "heart line" instead of getting caught up in the "story line." As an example, many people, hearing the sad tale of the ending of a Crinkle, Crinkle or Brekkus era, respond intellectually by saying, "Those things must end and children must move on." We'd offer a more emotionally based reaction, "Ah, how sad for you to see the end of that chapter," and allow the parents the feelings they are having.

There's a world of difference when we allow and acknowledge the emotions attached to events rather than get caught up in the intellectual stories that created the emotions. As we miss our children's sweet mis-speaks, we also miss times that seemed sweeter. If we talk about things that way, we can move closer to each other, and the sense of connection that most of us long for.

Russell P. Friedman is Executive Director of The Grief Recovery Institute Educational Foundation in Sherman Oaks, California [ ], and co-author of "The Grief Recovery Handbook & "When Children Grieve.Comment by clicking here.


© 2003, Russell P. Friedman