Category Archives: Children

Remembering

Remembrance Day July 15 2045

A man about 70 years old is sitting in a backyard chatting with his eight year old granddaughter as their family is preparing for other family members to arrive.

Grandpa, did we celebrate Remembrance Day when you were my age?

No, not when I was your age. I was closer to your mom and dad’s age. This day has only been a national holiday for a little over twenty years, w,ell before you were born.

Mom and Dad say we get together because of a bad virus that spread all over the world and we remember so we don’t forget. Why do we want to remember a virus that got lots of people sick?

Well, it’s not so much the virus we remember but those who were most affected by it. We remember the people who didn’t get better and the people who helped us get through that time.

You mean like doctors and nurses?

Yes, like doctors and nurses but so many more who risked their own health so that others would remain safe. People like first responders, police officers, firefighters, and those in the military. There were so many.

They’re always the heroes, right?

Yes, they are, but there were many other people who put their own health at risk so the rest of us could live our lives safely at home. Before that time, we never gave much thought to truck drivers or people who worked in food stores as heroes, but those drivers transported food to the stores, even though it was risky. And the people who worked at those stores showed up everyday so that the rest of us were able to purchase food.
Teachers made sure their students continued to learn, people who worked in pharmacies made sure people continued to get their medicine,  restaurants stayed open so that some people could order food if they couldn’t get to the grocery stores. Maintenance people made sure the hospitals stayed clean and those who worked in banks kept coming in so people could get money if they needed it. I’ve probably not mentioned nearly as many heroes as there were during that time.

So that’s what today is about?

Partly, yes. We want to remember all those who lost someone and we want to give thanks to those who helped us get through that period of time.  We don’t ever want to forget any of them.

Do all countries celebrate this day?

Well, a few other countries remember this pandemic in their own way, but they don’t call it Remembrance Day since that name means something different for other countries.

Mom and Dad said things changed after the virus. Did they change a lot?

For many, yes. Others just went back to the same routine and the life they lived before this happened.

What kind of things changed?

Well, you know we lost our way of life for a while; our freedom to go where we wanted when we wanted. To see and hug  the people we love the most. You really don’t know how much you miss something until it’s been taken away from you. Then you realize you miss it even more than you could have imagined.
People used to live very busy lives. Many families never had dinner together, were pulled in different directions and missed family celebrations or birthdays, because of commitments they thought were important.

People really missed birthday parties and celebrations?

Sadly, yes. But a strange thing happened after this was over. Some people came to understand what was really important in life. That you can’t get some days back. There’s only one of them and when you miss it, it’s gone forever. Just like people. Unfortunately, some people learned that the hard way.

So people changed?

Like I said ,some did. But not all. You see, during that time you really couldn’t go anywhere and families were forced to spend a lot of time together. So instead of rushing around with other commitments, they went for walks, played games, ate together, talked a lot more, went for bike rides, read books, watched movies, cooked meals together and just hung out. They had time to make time for each other. Sometimes they got on each others nerves, but when it was over and they were able to do the things they did before, some realized they would miss what they had during the time they were forced to stay home. They decided they wanted more of their down time and less of the craziness they had before. So they changed the way they lived their lives. They made compromises and adjustments so they could have the best of both worlds. They realized it was easy to do if they just focused on what was most important to them.
But like I said, not everyone felt them same way.

Did our family change?

Eventually yes, but it took a little time, which was probably true of most people.

Mom and Dad said people who used to work in offices had to go in everyday. That must have been weird for kids. I couldn’t imagine not having mom or dad home almost everyday.

Well, it wasn’t weird before the virus. In fact, that was pretty standard. But two things happened. People realized they could work just as efficiently from home and be able to spend more time with their families. And companies realized if they allowed that to happen without it affecting their business their employees would be happier and they could cut down on the amount of office space they needed and save some money on rent in the process. So there was a compromise of sorts. Some people began working in the office one to three days a week on rotating shifts. Not all jobs could do that, of course, but quite a bit more than people realized just a few months earlier.

So the virus wasn’t all bad?

Well, for some it was terrible. Many people lost family members and some nurses and doctors had a tough time healing after what they experienced. But people also became kinder to one another. If you went for a walk during that time, people who were strangers would wave to you and ask if everyone was okay. If someone needed help, they received it. People sang, and danced, told jokes, made crazy videos and raised money for those who were less fortunate and needed support.
So to answer your question,  there was some good that came out of something that was bad.

That happens a lot doesn’t it.

Yes, that happens a lot, if we pay attention and just look hard enough.

For several minutes, the little girl said nothing, looking past the people who started to arrive. Finally, she asked her grandfather if he thought  a virus like that could ever happen again.

He hesitated before answering, putting his arm around her and holding her close.

It’s possible, I suppose, though we’re much better prepared in case it ever happens again. But if that period of time taught us anything, it was to live in the moment and not worry so much about tomorrow. And our moment is coming through the door as we speak. Your cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents are all here. How about we go remember and celebrate this day with them.

The little girl looked up at her grandfather and smiled.  I think I’m going to give them all big hugs so they know how much I love them.

The grandfather pulled the little girl close, hugged her tightly and whispered softly in her ear.

I think that’s a great idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norway’s Answer To Youth Sports

I recently watched a show on HBO that explored Norway’s approach to youth sports. It was eyeopening. Anyone who has participated or been associated with youth sports in this country during the past thirty or so years will tell you, if they’re being objective, that the model is out of control. We train, pressure and attempt to develop eight year olds as if they’re pro athletes, so it should surprise no one that a study performed by the National Alliance for Youth Sports found that 70% of American children quit sports by the age of thirteen. One of the main reasons given for dropping out is that sports in no longer fun.

Enter Norway.

They basically take the approach that the United States is using, and do the opposite. Back in 1987, Norway adopted a statement called Children’s Rights In Sports. It governs how kids participate in athletics and all national sports federations are obligated to abide by the rules. The basic premise centers on making sports available for all kids with the goal of having fun. Instead of the pressure for kids to participate in one sport year round at an early age, like we do in the United States, Norway wants kids to play sports because its fun and they enjoy it.
By the way, 93 percent of children grow up playing organized sports in Norway, where there are no economic barriers, travel teams aren’t formed until teenage years and adults don’t begin separating weak from strong until children have grown into their bodies and interests. Leagues don’t keep scores until the age of 13, there are no national championships for teams younger than 13 and no regionals until 11. Once a child reaches thirteen, has begun to grow into their bodies and expressed specific interests, Norway’s sports federation make top coaches available to athletes skilled in those sports, but until then, it’s only about participation and letting kids be kids and have fun. Their belief is that it’s impossible to say at 8 or 10 who is going to be talented in school or sport. All children develop, physically and athletically, at very different ages.

What a concept!! Letting a child have fun, living their lives and playing sports for the pure enjoyment of it.

One would think that a system like this would come up short compared to our system of national championships for seven year olds, parents hiring coaches for nine year olds and families traveling across the country for tournaments. But Norwegian athletes get just as much physical exercise without having to play the same sports day after day, year after year, while they’re young. Their development is all encompassing and they are able to enjoy friendships and family without the stresses and commitments we see in this country.

Their goal is not to develop the best college or professional athlete, but the best well rounded person.

Oh, and if anyone thinks this approach doesn’t breed success, take a look at the last Winter Olympics in 2018. With a population of only 5.3 million people, Norway took home 39 medals, more than any country in the history of the Winter Games. And yes, they also have the best female soccer player in the world.

Is it any wonder that Norway always ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world?

Youth sports in this country is a 16 billion dollar industry bankrolled by parents who just don’t understand the long term impact on their children.

In a country where money speaks first, parents dictate direction and children have become a secondary priority, there is little chance that we will ever see the type of youth sports revolution Norway adopted.

And once again, children lose.

 

 

Scattering Love

                   It’s not what you gather but what you scatter that tells what kind of life you’ve lived.
Helen Walton

I was thinking about my childhood the other day and trying to remember how far back my memories went. I settled on somewhere between four and five years old but there were only a handful that were clear to me. That bothered me, especially when I took what was then and applied it to now.

Making memories with the people you love or care about is one of life’s greatest gifts. Some of the times we’ve laughed most were with our children and grandchildren, especially during their early years, when everything is on the table, learning is a daily adventure, innocent words  are a sound byte and your sense of wonder sometimes equals theirs. Those are memories that we’ll keep with us forever. Unfortunately, it’s all one-sided. Because in those early years it’s not anything they’ll remember. Influenced, yes. But all the things that were said or laughed about until there were tears in our eyes will not be a definitive memory for them.

That shouldn’t bother me because it’s just another cycle of life, but it does. I remember things that we did with our children and now our grandchildren that were special moments, and though we can relay the stories, it’s not the same as being there in our mutual minds. I sit and have conversations now with our grandchildren, play games, tell stories, laugh at the silliest things, hold them if they cry and sit back and wonder if they’ll remember any of it.

I’ve always understood this but I suppose as I’ve gotten older, Helen Walton’s quote has taken on a different meaning. You want those you love to remember every last laugh and cuddle and hand holding because you know that time of innocence, like life, is so short. Eight or nine comes too quick and soon they’re moving on. Parents will always be more invested in the lives of their children/grandchildren than the other way around. That’s just the way it is. It’s not a matter of loving or caring, it’s just the emotional investment that begins long before they open their eyes and never goes away.

So selfishly you want them to remember it all. Every amazing moment. Big and small. Hoping that you’ve scattered enough love and joy into their lives that one day they may laugh at something silly for no reason at all. You may not know it or even be there. But if it brought them happiness, then maybe something in their two year old lives stuck, and you’ve scattered enough.

And maybe, just maybe, the shade of a memory will not only be yours.

 

Reality Check

When you’re dancing with your three-year old granddaughter and she suddenly stops, looks at you with a serious, concerned look on her face and says, “I think you should sit down now grandpa.”

 

I think she wanted the stage all for herself. At least that’s what I told myself. The fact that I might be embarrassing her didn’t enter my mind. I didn’t ask. Didn’t want to know the answer. You know, the whole ignorance and bliss thing. I chose that route.

 

Carter

It was the end of the school day and the second grade class I was a substitute for that day was packed up and waiting to be called for their individual buses. Some were talking, some were playing games and some were showing off a bit, as second graders sometimes do.

When I looked over at Carter, he had a piece of construction paper out and was drawing what looked to be a card. Curious, I walked over and asked him what he was making. He told me it was a card for his mom. I asked him if it was for a special occasion, her birthday or something else but he just shook his head, smiled a little and said, “I just want to make her a card, but I don’t know what to write.”

I kneeled down next to him and asked him what he wanted to say. He looked at me and said, “I want to thank her for what she does for me.” I told him that was nice of him and maybe he can think of two or three things to write that stand out the most. He turned away from me, stared out the window and said, “She does everything for me. I don’t know how to write that.”

Before I could answer him or suggest some words, his bus was called and he had to leave. As I was driving home behind a school bus, I was wondering how his card would turn out and what he might write. Then the school bus stopped and I saw Carter step off, run over to a young woman, wrap his arms around her waist and press his head against her.

Maybe he finished the card that night, maybe the next day. Maybe he found the words he needed or maybe he’s still working on it. I’m not sure. But I smiled when I saw him hug his mom, not because he wanted to write that card or how his words made me feel. I smiled because…

Carter was home.

 

A Princess And Her Prince

A few weeks ago we were blessed to welcome our sixth grandchild, Taylor, into our family. She recently turned a month old and, like her sister at the same age, enjoyed a little photo shoot with her favorite pillow rest, Bailey.

Her birth reminded me of one of my favorite poems by the French poet, Yves Bonnefoy. I thought I’d share part of it with you…

The All, The Nothing

Its the last snow of the season,
The spring snow-the most skilled
At mending the rips in the dead wood
Before it’s brought inside and burnt.

It’s the first snow of your life,
Since yesterday there were only dots
Of color, brief pleasures, fears, chagrins-
Without substance for lack of words.

And I can see joy overtaking the fear
In your eyes which amazement opened
In one great, bright leap; this cry, this laughter
That I love, and that I ponder….

May the big snow be for you, the all, the nothing,
Child trying out your first uncertain steps in the grass,
Your eyes still full of the origin,
Hands grabbing at nothing but the light.

May the gleaming branches be the words
You’ll have to listen to, not understanding
The meaning of their silhouette against the sky-
Otherwise you’d only name them at the price of losing.

May these two values, one sparkling, be enough for you,
Of the hill glimpsed through the opening between the trees,
Bee of life, when in your dreams of the world,
The world itself grows quiet.

And may the water that wells up in the shadow
Show you that joy can survive in dream,
Even when a breeze from who knows where
Is already scattering almond blossoms-and yet the other snow.

Enjoy a blessed life, Taylor

 

It Shouldn’t Be That Difficult

Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.
Robert Fulghum

It doesn’t surprise me that this quote would come from someone who wrote a book called, All I Really Need To Know I learned In Kindergarten. Because children really learn, very early in life, the foundation of what should be most important to the rest of their lives.

Like all parents, I’m sure we made our share of mistakes. Parenting is a learn as you go experience so you do the best you can in situations you never imagined. Some moments require patience and understanding while some are simply common sense. Or should be.

For me, the Fulghum quote falls into the common sense category. It’s just so obvious that it’s painful to watch when it happens, and it happens much too often.

Most parents are big on discipline. They make sure their children say please and thank you. They try and teach them to be independent and they want them to respect their authority. They may punish them for disobeying their directives or not doing well in school. The list goes on.

But Fulghum takes parenting to another level of responsibility that parents sometimes ignore. The impact their own words and actions have on their children.

Are you teaching them what should be most important in their lives or satisfying your own desires because you’re unwilling or too lazy to do what’s right?

Is your language in front of your children what it should be? Children hear everything, even when you think they’re not listening.

Do you show the proper respect to others and ask that they do the same, explaining instead of ignoring or dismissing? Respect comes in many forms. Your lack of discipline should not become theirs. Continued excuses are unacceptable.

Are your prejudices on display in full view of your children? They notice and will react accordingly.

Do you attempt to influence their thoughts and actions instead of allowing them to try and make up their own minds?

Do you allow life to lead them or attempt to lead them through life without consideration for their own thoughts and interests.

Children hear what you say from the back seat of the car, from their rooms, during meals, while you think they’re preoccupied, while you’re on the phone or at the park speaking to your friends. They hear you at games, after games, during school functions and in every situation where your body language speaks louder than your words.

The absorb everything.

They recognize at a very early age what you think is most important and will follow accordingly. In many ways they will pattern their lives based on the influences your show them and the importance you place on certain things, and once it’s ingrained in their DNA, it’s hard to change. Next month or next year is too late.

Then one day they become a little older and you may not like what you see or hear. Discipline becomes a little harder until it’s not possible and then they’re on their own. A reflection of your words and actions.

Common sense stuff, right?

One would think so.

 

 

Smarter Than A Fourth Grader?

For those of you unfamiliar with Amazon’s Echo and our friend, Alexa, here is a description put out by Amazon…
Alexa is an intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon, made popular by the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Dot devices developed by Amazon Lab126. … Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system. 

Essentially, Echo is a smart speaker and Alexa is the voice you hear providing you with answers to most any question you might have. She’s basically a know it all that you can’t see.

With that as a backdrop, I was teaching a fourth grade class the other day and we were just beginning our math period by reviewing the previous night’s homework. Individual students would give an answer and if everyone was in agreement we’d move on. If not, we’d work out the problem on the board so everyone understood.
After James gave his answer, a couple of students sold him out and began laughing, saying he cheated because he asked Alexa for the answer. I looked over at James and his eyes were looking down and his face was red.
I was trying not to laugh because i never considered Alexa as a resource for homework but then again, I’m not a clever nine-year old with easy options available to him. So the very brief conversation went like this…

Me (smiling): James, did you use Alexa to do your math homework last night?

James (looking at his “friends”): You don’t how I did my homework!

Me: James, I’m not upset if you did, I’m just curious if Alexa helped you with your homework.

James: (looking at me with his face still red): Yeah, but after she gave me the answer, I did the problem myself. I wanted to check her to make sure she was right.

Me (trying not to laugh out loud): So you checked Alexa to make sure she didn’t make a mistake?

James: Yeah.

The class became quiet and looked at me to see what I would say but I don’t sell out clever nine-year olds who can think on their feet in front of their peers. So I simply said, “that was smart,” and we moved on.

I’m not sure what kind of lesson James learned that day, if any, or if he understood he was scamming the system a bit and might try doing it another way in the future. It’s possible.
All I know is that when I glanced back up at him a few seconds later he was smiling and his face wasn’t red anymore. I’m guessing he was feeling pretty good about himself.

And that was good enough for me.