I’m writing tonight from gorgeous St. Pete Beach in Florida.
I’m here with my sister, my first true friend. Born only 20 months after me, Liz was something of a twin to me when we were little. As the big sister, I protected her from scary invisible monsters and bossy neighbor kids.
As the little sister, she gave me a sense of power by obeying my every command.
Then we both grew up, and began to lead our different, separate lives. Time passed and we had different paths to follow. We were no longer in touch every day, and no longer held key roles in each others’ lives.
Nevertheless, she has always been there for me, my husband, my children. I hope I’ve done the same for her.
The years have rolled on. We aren’t those two cute almost twin girls with our matching outfits and matching ponytails. We are no longer those two young women in our new marriages.
Now we’re two aging ladies who have been through joys and struggles. We’re gray. We’re not as svelte as we used to be. We’re quirky.
Now we’re just two old nuts.
Liz lost her husband not long ago. He was the absolute love of her life, her other half. He was her partner in everything.
For 23 years, the two of them spent winter vacations on St. Pete Beach, always staying at the same resort motel. They made dozens of friends and thousands of memories. This place became a cherished second home for both of them.
I’m here because Liz needed to come back to this place. She wanted to make some new memories and to regain a little of the happiness she knew here. She needed a side kick, as it were, and I’m lucky enough to be in that role.
So here we are. Swimming in the salty waves of the Gulf of Mexico. Collecting shells, watching the sunsets, drinking wine.
There are some happy ghosts here for Liz, to be sure. But I think that there are also some new laughs.
In the end, we are just two old nuts strolling along the tide line with our very first friend.
When your children are born, all you want for them is…well, everything. You want to protect them from every possible bump, bruise, scratch, insult, injury, sorrow.
As they begin to grow, you realize as a parent that you can’t actually protect them from the world, from life.
But your initial hope remains true. When all is said and done, what you want for your children is happiness.
Every parent has thought it. Every one has said it, “I just want my children to be happy.”
What that means is something different from family to family, and it changes over time.
But in the end, if we can distill our deepest and truest wish for our children, it is this:
“I wish you a life that brings you pleasure. I wish you a job that makes you feel good about yourself. I wish you friends who laugh with you and share your best and worst times. And more than anything, I wish you love.”
We want our children to find their loves. To find someone who brings out the best in them. To find someone who is their own best with our child beside them.
Of course we may not realize it when the kids are small, and we may not say it out loud when they are older, but we also want them to find someone that we can love, too.
As parents, we wish for our children a life of equal parts adventure and predictability. We wish for them to grow and learn and get stronger every day.
When my three children were little, I imagined them eating good food around their own tables. All of them have achieved this. I desperately wanted them to find a community of like minded souls who would support them, challenge them and laugh with them. All three have that, too.
And I wish, most of all, that all of them would find a solid life partner, like mine, who would be there through all of the financial crises, the health issues, the emotional swings and the changing times. I wished each of them a partner who desired them, cared for them, missed them, stored up stories of the day to tell them.
All of mine have also, miraculously, found partners who bring out the best in them, who love them deeply, and who we love as well.
That’s a mother’s best wish. It’s any parent’s best wish.
“I just want my child to be happy.”
We all say it.
We all mean it.
Last weekend, my youngest child, my sweet baby, proposed to his own true love. We were there to share the excitement. She is the one who fills every one of our wishes for our boy.
Sometimes life give us exactly what we want, exactly what we desire.
This was one of those times.
Yay, Tim and Sweens!!!!! You guys make dreams come true, and not only for each other!!!!!
Before he proposed to Sweens, Tim came with me to see my 88 year old Mom. She was married to my Dad for 58 years. They had one of those magical and loving marriages that you only read about. She said to Tim, upon hearing his news, “I wish for you the same kind of relationship that Grampa and I had. We were best friends and we always looked out for each other.”
To every parent out there, I hope you all have happy children. There’s nothing more important, and nothing more gratifying.
I write this post with the full knowledge that some will find it self serving and weakly apologetic.
Still. I have to write down what I’ve been thinking over the past few weeks as I watch the national news.
I make no apologies for political leaders who have acted in ways that are offensive and crude.
But here’s what is on my mind.
When I was in my early twenties, I went to a Halloween party. I was dressed as “Morticia” from the Adams Family. It was fun! I wore the long hair, the big eyelashes, the long black dress.
My husband wasn’t sure what to wear. He stumbled upon a Santa Suit, and thought he’d wear that. But at the last minute, for reasons that I can no longer remember, he decided to be Black Santa. He put on black face and did his “jive” thing during the party.
It seemed fine at the time.
At that point in our lives, having recently graduated from an upper middle class suburban Boston high school, we had never ever been taught about the shameful, humiliating use of “minstrel” shows and blackface. We hadn’t ever been taught about the Jim Crow laws, or the post Civil War attempts to keep our African American countrymen in poverty and subservience.
Maybe we should have figured it out by then, but we hadn’t. No adult, no school, no curriculum had ever asked us to look at the racist history of our county.
We didn’t know what we didn’t know. We thought black Santa was just fun.
And then there’s the memory that I have about applying to college. I remember having a high school counsellor who advised me to seek out any possible scholarship for which I might qualify. He told me to dig deep, to find odd little items that might bring me financial support.
I remember spending hours searching through a big book of scholarships. (We didn’t have the internet yet). I looked for anything that might include “second generation Italian American” or “Immigrant grandchild.” or “big Catholic family” or “child of a mechanical draftsman.” I searched for anything that might help my family pay for my degree.
I also remember my classmates scanning through the pages to find any possible scholarship related to “Native American” ancestry. At that time (during the 70’s) the biggest chance a kid had of earning a special scholarship was by identifying Native American ancestry.
Because my grandparents were all born in Italy, I didn’t spend a lot of time searching for those particular items, but I knew a lot of kids who did.
What’s my point?
It isn’t to excuse the use of minstrel based black face. It isn’t to excuse our meager attempts to claim “Native American” blood even if it was only 1/100th of our family history.
What I want to say here is that I think the awful situation that is faced now by so many elected officials (Sen. Warren, Virginia Governor Northam, ) is in part perfect proof of how this country has completely ignored it’s awful history. We have not directly addressed our horrific treatment of our enslaved countrymen. We have let ourselves off the hook, as it were, letting our schools teach that the end of the Civil War was the end of racism.
We’ve let ourselves learn, believe and accept that what our ancestors did to the native people who lived here before us was acceptable on some level.
I know that I grew up as a white American in a white suburb. I read every word of every text book. I believed what I read. I accepted it.
I wasn’t smart enough to ask any questions.
I don’t know how many of my age level colleagues asked questions.
What I do know is that it has to be a huge, giant , national scandal that people like me were allowed to grow up believing that black face was just plain fun. It is wrong on every level that we were encouraged to look for personal gain based on the assaults on Native People.
If I was a duly elected public official who once wore black face in public, I’d step down now. I would feel that I owed it to all those who came before me.
If I was a duly elected public official who once claimed native American ancestry to achieve some personal gain, I’d back down right away. I would feel that I owned that to those who were hurt by my generation and those that came before us.
We have a chance, it seems to me, to right so many wrongs. At last, at last, at last, it seems that we have a chance to undo at least some of the horrors that were inflicted on those who have helped to make this country what it is today.
When I had my kids, many years ago, I didn’t have the chance to be a “stay at home Mom.” I had to work. I had to leave them with babysitters or day care staff. Finances and insurance needs made this true.
But back then, I often thought that I would have loved to stay at home. I imagined the art projects, the cookies baking, the stories being read by the fire. It all seemed so idyllic to me.
I was wracked with guilt about leaving my best beloved little ones in the care of other women. I will never forget the time that my little son, barely able to speak, walked through our house on a Saturday, opening closet doors and calling for his sweet day care Momma. “Nella?” He sounded so sad as he opened every door in our house, looking for the woman who cared for him every day. “Nella?”
My heart broke into a zillion pieces, and if I hadn’t known and loved his Nella, I might have strangled her.
Now, at last, after decades as a working woman, now I am that stay at home woman. I am “Nella” to my grandkids and one of their friends.
They love me.
We have fun here. It is a safe, interesting, creative place.
And now, at last, after all these years, I understand why so many stay at home moms of my generation wanted nothing more than to break out and see the real world.
Staying in the same house, the same four rooms, day after day after day after day, serving the same snacks, watching the same movies, playing the same games…….
All of this is incredibly important and supportive for young children.
But it is also incredibly mind numbing for the adults involved.
OK, I know that I am lucky. As in, unbelievably, incredibly blessed to be there every day in the lives of the children I love most on this beautiful earth.
I get it. Yay, me! Yay, Nonni! Go, me!
I go on Amazon at least ten times a week, ordering movies, books, crayons, pains, dress up clothes and musical instruments. I am so happy to be with the kids every day.
You know what? There are definitely days where I look at myself in the mirror and think, “No one has actually looked at me today. I could dye my hair purple, grow a beard, get myself a new nose: Nobody would notice.”
There are days when I realize that I am the giver of string cheese. The wiper of poopy butts. The finder of lost toys.
There are days when I honestly feel like I could be replaced by a nice soft robot.
And this is why I am now the strongest supporter of young parents. Moms, Dads, working or staying at home. These young adults are doing the work that is most important for the survival of our entire species. They are keeping children clean, fed, safe, entertained and engaged.
They are creating the next generations of humans who will keep our species going.
So I am happy to be a part of this most important job. I am.
But I am also acutely aware that there are days when I have not done one single thing that uses my training, my intellectual skills, my knowledge. There are days when the most important thing I have done all day is to put an “Elsa” bandage on a scraped knee.
As I look back on my life, I guess I have to say this. I’m very happy that when I was a young, untested, untried, unproven human, I was not called upon to be a stay at home mom.
Young parents: You have my utmost respect, support and love.
Go, you! Whether you work outside of the home, or stay at home with your kids, YOU are our future. You are the best of all of us.
I first heard the phrase “Food is Love” from a colleague who was laughing at me gently on the morning of Sept.12, 2001. After the horror of the terrorist attacks in New York, and the long, terrifying night lying awake and watching endlessly repeating news, I had arrived at school with two dozen home made muffins.
I didn’t know what else to do. The world was out of control. I was sad, upset, scared, confused. I didn’t know how to react.
So I cooked.
Food is love. Food is comfort.
Food is family and warmth and security.
I guess that’s why I have raised three kids who are all exceptionally good cooks. My daughter makes the best pizza I have ever eaten. She makes Indian foods, Asian foods, and delicious focaccia.
My two sons are such good cooks that for Christmas I tend to give them ingredients as gifts. They went to college fully prepared to cook for the entire apartment. Now in their mid twenties and in serious long-term relationships, they love to cook for their partners and friends. They grow vegetables, they seek out organic foods, they browse through recipes for inspiration knowing that they will add/change/delete build upon whatever they find.
So I guess it’s no surprise that one of my favorite parts of every day is cooking with my grandchildren.
I get so much pleasure out of those moments when the two kids are seated up on my counter, helping me to mix, chop, stir, mince, sautee and simmer.
OK. Full disclosure and all that: when we’re cooking, I know where they are and I don’t have to chase them. The chaos is contained.
But that isn’t the whole story.
I just love sharing good food with them. I love sharing the history of our family recipes. I love teaching them how to handle foods, how to measure and pour and stir. I love letting them know that spilling is allowed, mistakes are expected and eggshells can add a little crunch to a cake.
Mostly, I love looking at them. I love seeing their big, dark brown eyes gazing into the bowl of dough. I love the way they listen to my every word, even as I realize that they don’t understand it all.
I mean, how many three year old really understand the difference between slicing and mincing the red peppers? How many 19 month old kids know how to crack an egg, crush a clove of garlic, zest a lemon?
My grandchildren do. Or at least they are beginning to.
Someday, when they are living on their own in small, drafty apartments, I hope that they will pull out a pile of ingredients, start to chop, and tell their gathered friends, “My Nonni taught me how to cook before I was old enough to talk.”
I hope that they think of me when they add a dash of crushed red pepper to a pot of soup. I hope they recognize, on some deep level, that they dare to experiment with spices because their Nonni helped them to feel at home in the kitchen.
I hope that they one day they will gaze with devotion at someone at their table and that they will say, “You know that food is love, don’t you?”
It’s a virtue that in some ways I possess in spades. I mean, (cough, cough), I spend all day with toddlers and I almost never yell or lose my cool. Truly.
But sometimes I do NOT want to wait. Sometimes I am all about the instant gratification. Sometimes I am not at all patient.
Let me give you an example.
A couple of years ago my sister-in-law gave me a gorgeous orchid. I had never had one before, and I was head over heels in love with its tender beauty. I read the little card that came with my plant. It said to give the plant 1/4 of a cup of water every week.
I was a little bit perplexed, because that seemed like a pretty meager amount of water for a tropical plant. I asked my sister-in-law how to grow it, and she gave me the advice that I later found online. Add an ice cube once a week and the plant will flourish.
Really? Once again, that didn’t seem like much water for a jungle plant. Plus, it was really really really cold water. Wouldn’t jungle rain be warmer?
Still, I did what I was advised to do. Because I hate being cold, I skipped the ice and went with the 1/4 cup of cold water once a week.
My flowers stayed in bloom.
They stayed in bloom so long in fact, that when I went to visit my 87 year old Mom, and saw her orchid starting to wilt, I offered to take it home and save it.
I put both orchids in a sunny spot and watered them every 7-10 days with a little splash.
They both dropped their petals, lost some leaves and keeled over.
I was heartbroken.
I mean, I don’t have a lot of skills to brag about, but I thought I could at least keep a houseplant alive! One of the orchids turned totally brown and began to look more like a tumbleweed than a jungle creature. I sadly tossed her onto my compost pile and turned to her barely alive sister.
“Please tell me how to bring you back,” I whispered sadly to my spindly friend. “Look on Youtube,” she whispered back, her voice so weak that I could barely hear the faint hope it held out. “Google orchids….google….care for orchids…..”
I wiped the tears from eyes and followed her sage advice.
And there I learned that (AHEM) I was right all along. Orchids are tropical plants. Ergo, they will thrive in environments that mimic the tropics. As in: lots and lots of tepid water dumped on them all at once, then long periods of heat, then you repeat the process.
So I did as advised. I moved my weakened limp leafed friend away from the direct light of the window (forest canopy, anyone????) I let her roots rise up from the pot and hang outside like spindly spider legs (orchids grow outside of the soil) and I watered the crap out of her every time the wood chips and bark beneath her felt dry.
Lo and freakin’ behold. One fine day, a lovely, bright green shoot arose from her stem. Up, up, up it crept. It took a full month for me to be sure that it wasn’t just another root.
But at last, this courageous and intrepid plant, sentenced to life in a completely non-tropical New England home, sent up a gorgeous stem filled with buds.
I rejoiced! There was prosecco. (OK, fine, there’s always prosecco here, but still. I was very happy). There was music and dancing and as the formerly limp green leaves of the orchid rose up again in good health, there was much cheering of fabulous gardening Nonni.
Every day the buds grew larger. Every day, the purple and green stem arched it’s way toward the sunlight.
Every day Nonni waited to rejoice at the fact that she had brought this nearly dead exotic plant back to life. Nonni waited with gleeful anticipation for the first glorious flower.
She kept the orchid close to the sunlight, but not bathed in it. She turned it a couple of times a day. She watered it thoroughly with room temperature water every few days when the winter heat dried it out.
Nonni eventually started to sing to her lovely tropical guest. “Oh, beautiful plant, so full of life!!!!” she trilled, hoping to nudge it into bloom. “Where the heck are you, anyway?”
Each day the buds got bigger. And fuller. And more alive with promise.
But. The winter days passed. And nothing happened.
As in. No. Thing.
Nonni was losing her grip.
And Hannaford’s had pretty little orchid plants in full bloom for only a few bucks. Nonni bought one.
OK. So maybe it wasn’t entirely fair to bring home a sweet young thing, but I was getting a little bit short of patience. I won’t say that I was hoping to shame my recovering orchid into bloom. But I did think a little competition might be helpful.
Here I sit, in front of my not-cold-not-dry-not-too-sunny orchid. I am still singing to her lovely full buds.
But I’m almost out of patience. I mean, come on already!
Give me all the toddlers in the world. I am not sure I have the patience to deal with shy orchid blossoms.
Git out here already, before I replace you with some early daffodils!
If you’ve read my recent post about snow tubing, you’ll know that I have a pretty badly bruised right arm and some cracked or bruised ribs.
This is, without a doubt, my biggest ever “ouchie”. I am finding it very hard to sleep (did you know that you need your thoracic ribs to roll over?), to laugh (holy chest pain), to sneeze (catch me, I’m going to faint) or to cough (I’m going to throw up, I mean it, get that bucket, I am serious!)
My right arm just keeps swelling, getting more and more purple/black/orange/blue/yellow with every passing hour.
Me no likies. Me wicked sore.
Nevertheless, being Nonni, I agreed to watch the kids yesterday. My daughter stepped up on Tuesday, so I did get a whole day of rest after my big tubing adventure.
But after that, I really wanted to see the kids. I missed them! I needed them! So yesterday I took care of my two grandchildren. I wanted them. I needed to be with them.
And I wanted to prove that I could handle a little ol’ tubing crash without missing a beat.
So I lifted Johnny with my left arm (ouch. I didn’t know my ribs would be so connected). I snuggled Ellie on my lap (Yikes, did you know your ribs were connected to your lap?) I changed some diapers and served some meals and some snacks. I helped Johnny climb into his crib for a nap (oh, man, ribs are used for lifting on the other side?), but I had to lift him out when he woke up (ouch, ow, ow, ouw).
You get the picture, right?
One cannot Nonni with only one working arm.
Last night I woke up every time I tried to 1) roll over 2) cough 3) breathe. Every rib I have ever met seemed to be screaming at me.
When I got up this morning, I was surprised (and completely disgusted) to see that my entire right arm was swollen like a sausage.
But what could a Nonni do? I got up, took my shower without looking at the ugly purple appendage on my right, and got ready to take care of the kids.
I tried. I did.
You cannot wrestle an 18 month old boy out of his poopie clothes and into his clean ones without your ribs. You can’t snuggle a sad 3 year old in your arms without using your right arm. No matter how hard you try, you can’t wipe down two wet dogs with one working arm. You can’t make pasta, or a sandwich, or get a snack for three hungry toddlers without dragging that aching right arm into service.
I did it.
I did what no self-respecting Italian Nonni would ever do.
I asked for help.
I texted my daughter, telling her that I wasn’t able to keep the kids safe with my one working arm. I told her that she needed to come home from work early, and that I didn’t think I should have the kids tomorrow.
I felt breathless with guilt. I felt weak, worthless, upset, guilty.
And then my daughter came home.
“Mom,” she said calmly, “You’re hurt. You can’t watch the kids. It’s fine.”
And just like that, the guilt and weakness and oh-poor-me lifted off of me.
Tomorrow I plan to sit still, with ice on my arm. I plan to read. I plan to take my ibuprofen and use my ice packs.
Tomorrow I will be Boo-Boo Nonni instead of Super Nonni. And I will be OK with that.
It isn’t easy, let me tell you, but even an Italian Nonni can find a way to give her swollen purple arm and her smashed up ribs a chance to heal.
One dozen is only twelve donuts. One dozen is only a handful of m&ms.
A dozen years is merely the time it takes for a newborn to get to the sixth grade. Ask any parent on earth and they will assure you that twelve short years go by unbelievably quickly.
A dozen years ago, George H. Dubya Bush was President. The housing bubble was just beginning to burst. General Petraeus was coming under fire for his failure to maintain security in the face of an affair.
You remember all of this, don’t you?
It wasn’t very long ago.
In fact, to some of us it seems like just last week.
A dozen years is not very long. I’m 62 years old, and I figure I’ll still be around in twelve short years.
So why am I writing about a dozen years? I’ll tell you why.
Because as unbelievable as it seems, climate scientists are telling us that if we don’t manage to stop and reverse global warming within that very very short period of time, we will most likely be looking at the end of the world we know. Coastlines will flood, Droughts will intensify. Our efforts to feed the population of the world will be further stressed.
In other words, we have twelve very very short years to try to make things on this earth a little bit less catastrophic.
I don’t know about you, but that seems like a pretty big deal to me. Twelve years? To try to save our current civilization?
Gulp. And gulp again.
Seems to me that given this information, our entire focus should be on changing that terrible prospect for the future. Seems to me that every single city in the world should be looking at ways to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Every state should be looking at ways to increase the presence of trees, grasses and native plants.
Call me crazy, but it sure seems to me that every single country on this spinning blue planet should be working together to reduce greenhouse gasses, increase oxygen production and focus on environmental policies.
Why are we all in a sweat about a freaking wall? Build it, don’t build it, whatever…..Can we talk about stopping climate change yet?
Why are we focused on trading petroleum based products back and forth instead of working together to find some green products that could replace them?
Twelve short, short years to try to turn around the probable destruction of the entire planet.
Call me crazy, but I’m ready to vote for any candidate who steps up and demands that climate preservation is the first order of business and all the rest is just noise.
Generally speaking, I do a great job of choosing my friends. I’ve managed to surround myself with people who are very smart, loving, kind, and funny as hell.
Take my gang of old high school pals, for instance. Even though we parted ways back in 1974, we’ve managed to stay in touch and to reunite a couple of times a year.
It’s so much fun! I love being with every one of them. They’re wonderful.
Except for one minor flaw. A flaw that they all seem to share.
They’re way too physically active.
They ski, they run, they do freakin’ yoga. They’re a bunch of athletic fresh air freaks, constantly on to their next outdoor adventure.
And sometimes they make me go along.
Yesterday was a perfect example. There were ten of us gathered in Maine. Nine of us were very excited about going tubing. Meanwhile, Nonni here was hoping to find a reasonable excuse to sit by the fire and stir something.
But out of love and admiration for my pals, (combined with my desire not to seem like a pathetic old poop,) I decided to go along.
Silly, silly me!
As all the skier types pulled on their snowpants, Russian bomber hats, face masks and mukluks, I started to get a little nervous. “It will be fine!” all the athletes assured me. “You’ll love it!” I swallowed my nerves and smiled.
We got to the tubing hill and piled out into the cold. Off to the big icy slope we went. I managed to stay upright on the steeply sloped moving sidewalk, and found myself at the top of what felt like one of the Alps.
There were separate little “chutes” for us to ride down, each one slightly steeper than one before it. My heart rate was about 200, but I was game to try it.
“Yay! Let’s go!” yelled all the happy athletes. I whispered a quick “Hail Mary” and shoved off.
Holy careening grandmother. The tube and I were flying down the hill. I was definitely going 90 miles an hour. Minimum.
I tried putting on the breaks by digging in my heels, but the result was a face full of ice pellets and no reduction in speed. Bad plan.
I made it to the bottom in one piece, and joined all the other outdoorsy types on the way back up. “I can do this,” I told myself. “It’s actually almost kind of funnish in a terrifyingly horrific way.”
Down I flew again, this time with my feet held up and out of the snow.
I’m sure I hit 110 mph this time. All the little bumps shook me so hard I felt my teeth coming loose.
Once again, I made it to the bottom.
At this point my butt was wet and my nose was frozen, but I was starting to see myself as an aging Lindsey Vonn.
Woo-hoo! Back to the top I went.
Now on this tubing hill you’re instructed to watch carefully before you throw yourself off the cliff. This is because you will soon become a giant blob of humanity hurtling toward the end of the slope at the speed of light. You need to be absolutely, positively certain there’s nobody standing in your way.
I looked. The coast was clear. I tossed myself off the cliff and flew.
And far, far below me, I suddenly saw a tiny figure. Standing RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF MY CHUTE.
I did what any natural athlete would do. I started to shriek at the top of my lungs.
I was a giant blob of shrieking hurtling Nonni, absolutely terrified that I was about to obliterate whoever was standing there.
At 143 mph, the bottom comes pretty damn quick. I thought about bailing out of my tube, but I wasn’t even sure where my own butt was located at this point. I was paralyzed with fear, although the shrieking seemed to be going well.
The tube was spinning around and around, making it very hard to see where I was careening. I tried to figure out if the person in the way had moved to safety. To my horror, I realized that I was about to smash full on into a tiny boy who stood frozen in the middle of the chute.
There was nothing I could do to stop myself from flying forward or to move the little guy of my way. I spun around one more time, knowing that my back was toward the child.
I am not a tiny Nonni. I was sure that I was about to kill a toddler.
I was already crying when I felt the contact. Boom!!! I felt myself slam into him, and watched in shock as his little body flew over my head, all four limbs spread out like wings.
I was still speeding on, and before I could reach down for my next shriek, I felt another, much harder crash into the right side of my body.
This time it was Nonni who flew out of the tube and landed in the snow.
My head was spinning, and I was finding it hard to breathe. I tried to sit up because I was terrified about the little one. I saw him trying to roll over, but he wasn’t moving much.
It turns out that after I had slammed into the child, I’d run full on into the knees of the teenaged employee who was in the chute trying to save the kid. His knees and my ribs had made crunching contact.
In the end, it all turned out more of less OK. The little boy was barely shaken up, and was back on the slopes in no time. The poor teenaged boy limped home, sore and upset by what had happened.
Nonni is bruised and bashed, but there’s no serious damage.
And I’ve learned one thing.
My next athletic endeavor will involve kneading bread dough.
When I was a classroom teacher, in a public school, I was constantly reminded of the fact that our structured educational plans were often interfering with the glorious creative chaos of our children.
Now that I am a “Stay at home Nonni”, watching two or three toddlers (depending on the day), my thoughts have changed. Now I have become even more convinced that if we truly want to foster creative thinking in our kids, we adults need to shut up, back off, and be willing to clean up the mess when it’s all done.
Today was the perfect example of this educational philosophy. Today I was home with 18 month old Johnny, who is completely 100% focused on pushing buttons, opening doors and placing items into various containers.
I was doing my best to corral his curiosity and keep him engaged in socially appropriate activities. Those activities are mostly cleaning (he can use a broom and push the dirt into the dustbin and throw it into the trash) and cooking (he can crack an egg, use a garlic press and add flour to a working mixer.)
Meanwhile, three year old Ellie and four year old Ella were engaged in some kind of pretend play in the living room. This play, whatever it was, involved a great deal of shrieking, a lot of dramatic cries, and a “treasure map”(my tossed out mail) that had to be followed in order to save some vague hero from an even more vague bad guy.
While Johnny and I minced onions and stirred our pot of chili, the girls raced around the house. A bridge of pillows was built. A blanket was tossed over two chairs to create a caste. An old cardboard box became a baby’s special bed. And a bookshelf was emptied to make a hidden cave for a fairy.
To be honest, I didn’t really follow all of the action. I was busy trying to make a batch of chili while keeping Johnny from getting into the bathroom plumbing.
But when it was all over, and it was time for me to sit the three kids down for lunch, I realized a lot of learning had taken place while I was busy.
I learned that the kids had figured out that one size had to be smaller than the other if something would fit into something else. They had worked out a truly creative way to merge the stories of two royal sisters (Frozen) with the story of a magical pony (My Little Pony). They didn’t just travel on parallel tracks; they managed to mix the two stories into an entirely new adventure.
While creating all of this magic, the three and four year old girls had managed to cooperate, negotiate, take turns and share their ideas.
All on their own.
This isn’t magic, although I have to admit that seemed like it to me.
It was simply the power of the young, unfettered human mind when it is left alone to do what nature has always intended.
Kids are magic. Kids are our problem solvers.
Kids are everything that we always wish we could be.
This aging educator is learning that the less I try to teach, the more these children learn.
But don’t just believe me. Look at these videos produced by people who are far more educated than me.