Saturday, January 28, 2017

Every Day is the Only Day

I spend most of my time in the company of children. I’ve taught fourth grade for the last twenty-two years, in two states. On Sundays,  I’ve been appointed the leader of my church’s children’s organization, so I’m in charge of about 45 children between the ages of three and 12 for a couple of hours. I have a whole staff, who teach various classes, and then the group lessons, and singing time. But, I’m the organizer and leader. I am also the mother of five children, and grandmother of four. So, I understand the mind of the pre-teen set very well. I wonder, though, how many of us understand the magnitude of the impact of one’s childhood on the adult that person will become? Do you remember vividly vast parts of your childhood, yet can’t recall the details of two weeks ago? It is that phenomenon that motivates me every day that I’m working with children.

Each day of a child’s life is their entire life. Right there. Just that. They live in the present. Tomorrow will never come.

When I was the mother of just two, I found myself thinking that, one day, when we earned more money, then I’d do this or that with the children, and we’d go out and have some adventures, and go to interesting places. Luckily, I realized, with a start, that THIS was their only childhood. There would not be another opportunity for my son or daughter to be this age, or at this stage of their development ever again. The time to DO was RIGHT NOW.

So, despite being officially in poverty--according to statistics--(my husband was active duty Navy in the Jimmy Carter era) I decided to not allow money to run my life. I looked up every single free, or nearly free, opportunity afforded families in our big old port city, and we went on adventures.

Many years later, my adult children validated my actions when they would reminisce about things we’d done. They also pointed out that they had no idea we were “poor” or that we had so little money. They just remember the many interesting things we did. One of my sons took his future wife on a date to the children’s section of the library to share with her his favorite books that we’d read, over and over. One of my daughters treated her college roommates to the repertoire of dinosaur songs we’d learned from a record I found. There they were—twenty-year-old women standing in front of an enormous skeleton listening to her sing: “Triceratops has three long horns, a beak like a parrot and a frill where his neck is!” Oh, and someday, I’ll tell you about going to beach in our shoes and pajamas early one morning when I heard on the radio about the dead whale that had washed up. Now, my newly teen-aged grandchildren tell me of the adventures they go on, because their parents say, “when I was a kid, we did this.”  

Here are a couple of numbers:
  • Children officially start school at age 5 in the United States
  • During the five years from birth, motor control goes from zilch to walking and running without thought
  • During the five years from birth, oral language goes from crying to complex communication
  • The first three years of life are the most intensive period for language development
Yet, every year, we have children arrive to their first day of Kindergarten who have never held a crayon or a pencil. They’ve not colored, or scribbled, or held a book, or been read to, nor pretended to read by themselves. Their vocabulary limits are astonishing. It takes us teachers years to get that student caught up to the milestones appropriate for their age. By then, the student is so far behind, that they’ve become discouraged and reluctant.

I guess what I’m saying is CARPE DIEM. If you have children in your life, make every day count. For a child, that is the only day they have. You do not have to take them to Disneyland to have a grand adventure. In fact, a Grand Adventure can be had watching a spider. I’m probably preaching to the choir here. But, the numbers that really matter in a child’s life are the hours that are spent in human interaction, curiosity satisfying, challenges attempted and conquered, and nature observed.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Just a Few New Year Happenings

Happening #1
I went back to work as a teacher yesterday. I took off two months to have my knee joint replaced with titanium! I spent most of that time lying on the couch, of course, except when I was doing PT (physical torture). So, when I showed up at school, I was feeling pretty good about how well my knee had healed, and how well I could walk again, and just ready for action. By lunch, I discovered just how exhausted a person can be after they lie around for two months, and then jump back into the Rat Race (and it is a race...believe fourth grade.) My new knee felt great! The whole rest of my body was panting, and yelling, "Hey! What happened to the couch? That was great!" I sat down most of the rest of the afternoon, and then ate some dinner, and fell into bed at 9:30. (I usually get to bed around 11:00.) And I felt pretty good by morning. Today wasn't nearly as exhausting, but I'm definitely going to have to get back into shape if I want to keep up with the school teacher routine.

Happening #2
This morning I woke up and I had a serious ear worm in my head. "Scripture Power!" Over and over, with great insistence my brain would not give up on the chorus: "Scripture Power! Everyday I need, the power that I get each time I read!" I mean--it was persistent, loud, and drowned out every other thing I could think about. Suddenly, I just laughed out loud, and thought, "Thank you, Heavenly Father! That's right, I really wanted to get better at the habit of reading the scriptures every morning."  I've actually been apologizing each night in my prayers about failing, once again, to sit down and read each day. I put my scriptures out on a table so they'd be a reminder. I have the time in the morning. While I eat my breakfast cereal, or toasted bagel, or whatever...I could easily sit and read something from my big old quad on the little table in front of my reading couch. So...I just went right in, sat down, and opened up that book and found a really nice section to contemplate this morning, while the house was quiet, and I was well-rested. Sometimes, God has to resort to actual nagging. Thanks again!

Happening #3
Our son and his wife called a couple of days ago, out of the blue! It was great! The big surprise is that they were driving across Montana at the time. They live in Bremerton, WA, where he is serving on a submarine. So, hey! Montana? In the middle of winter? They were driving across country so that the wife can live the next five months with her mom in Worcester, MA, and have the car so she can go to work, while our son heads out to sea for an unexpected trip on another submarine. He's a sonar man and I guess this other boat just really needed him and couple of other guys from his original boat to fill in their crew. So, every day, I got a text from them telling me where they were next. Yes, they ended up driving south a little to escape the amazing storm slamming the northernmost part of the USA. It was fun to keep track of their journey. Today, I read that they stopped to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame for about three hours. Those two need three days -- I'm just saying. And then, I got a little video in a text, of her walking into to her mom's house for the Big Surprise! Yes, it was a secret for her mom, and it was a dandy payoff. Her mom will appreciate seeing her, and then our daughter-in-law won't have to be so lonely while our son is listening to whales and shrimp...and other things...