She knows things

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 2, 2004

When we are undecided about something, we often end up turning to my 10-year-old daughter, Catherine, for guidance. She knows things.

It’s been apparent to us since she was barely able to talk that she possessed some strange wisdom that we didn’t. Her advice on matters is usually sound if not downright profound.

I became aware of this when she was about four. My family accompanied me on a business trip to Branson. At the hotel one afternoon I took baby Catherine and her then-8-year-old brother to the hotel swimming pool.

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Adam, as usual, was misbehaving in the water. After repeated calm attempts on my part to persuade him to alter his behavior, my voice began to take on a louder, meaner tone, as stressed parents are wont to do.

Catherine had been sitting on the side of pool with me as I yelled at Adam. I felt a little hand on my shoulder and turned to look into Catherine’s deep, dark eyes.

&uot;He’s you boy,&uot; she said to me, a note of disapproval and admonishment in her voice. &uot;You be happy at him.&uot;

&uot;My boy&uot; and I have had many such tense encounters in the six or seven years since that incident and Catherine’s sage words have pulled me back from the edge more than a few times. When she speaks, I try to listen.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s not like the Dalai Lama or something. Her every utterance is not sage, but if you listen closely and pay attention, interspersed with the often long, seemingly inane monologues about Bratz, Polly Pockets or Hillary Duff, one can usually pick up a nugget or two of something useful, or consider a point of view you hadn’t realized existed.

My wife’s 18-year-old niece recently moved in with us. She’s a typically confused teen and needed to get away for a while from the onset of adulthood and make up her mind between the two boys who relentlessly pursued her back in West Virginia.

My wife sees a lot of herself in her niece and talks to her a lot about the world, and all the opportunities available to you a bright, young pretty girl, and tries to prevent her from generally screwing up her life. Mostly, they discuss the boys.

Last weekend one of the boys came to visit. Early Saturday morning as I was in watching the morning news, I heard Cathy and Catherine in the kitchen discussing it. Cathy was telling Catherine about which boy was the best for her niece. Cathy had discussed their strengths and shortcomings at some length while Catherine sat quietly listening. Then she said simply, &uot;Mom, it’s Ashley’s decision to make,&uot;

While that’s exactly what I had been sitting there thinking – although it was more like, &uot;Why don’t you just mind your own business and shut the hell up?&uot; Had it been me who had said that, Cathy would probably have called me an idiot and thrown something at me. I have little credibility on such matters.

Relationships, emotions and spirituality are Catherine’s areas of expertise and Cathy decided to heed her words.

Ashley will choose for herself, and chances are she’ll choose badly – if she’s anything like her aunt then that’s a sure thing. It could take years for her to recover from making the wrong choice, but that’s what life’s all about – making your own choices and learning from your mistakes.

Catherine realizes that, but I suspect her choices will be good ones. I’m not so sure about her brother. But whatever they choose, I’ll do my best to be happy at them.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611, or at