Spring is a complex thing. Part of a natural process, one-fourth of nature’s annual cycle…A time for children to leave the indoors and rediscover the outdoors, as long as we their parents let them…A theme in art and literature…A time for children to abandon their digital screens and dig in the dirt, as long as we let them outdoors…An image of renewal…A time for children to….Well, there’s a theme there, as long as we let there be one.
Children — along with bluebirds and other wild creatures — need to find themselves in the leaves, trees, and wilderness of the outdoors, no matter what it looks like: lawns, parks, pavement, streets (safe ones), and any area where sky can be glimpsed. Is there stranger danger? Yes,but it’s roughly equivalent to the chances your child will be struck by lightning, though we feel it is more like 50-50, given the media.
Spring can remind your children — and yourself — that renewal is ongoing, that it is safe to be alive, that despite the risks of being alive, it is far more amazing to run and jump and laugh than it is to hunker down inside — and inside of yourself — and be afraid.
We have triplet children and dual cats — three nineteen-year-old college freshmen who adore the pair of ten-year-old cats my wife and I tend to at home. It’s amazing how close and how complex are the many relationships exist between and among those five “creatures”: the love, warmth, and silliness that have gone on for years are so much a part of the family that with the kids away at college, the cats have grown to feel like two more “children.”
The pair of felines also help our three human children seem closer to home. They sit in our laps, cry for attention, need to be fed, and often follow us around the house — all actions reminiscent of our children’s childhood behavior, behaviors that as a father I truly miss. (Certainly toilet training for the cats was a lot easier!) But in the end, cats do not write letters (our kids do!), phone home, or wrap their arms around us after the exchange of Christmas presents and tell us they love us.
Cats’ reputation as aloof and distant hardly fits our own two felines. When our children come home for spring break, our cats will be found curled around their necks, perched on their laps like blankets, or trailing them from room to room — just as they do with my wife and me now. It’s nice, frankly, because I miss the toddler stage when one or more of our “babies” curled around my legs, or fell asleep on my shoulder, or slid down a slide into my arms. If I ever had to choose, between our two cats and our three children — I do think I would decide on our three amazing children.
We all encounter adults struggling with children virtually every day: frustrated moms with kids grabbing Fruitless Loopies on the cereal aisle…dad at Target on Saturday with twins in tow, his wife at home exhausted and finally able to take three sips in a row of her own grape juice…tired teachers with tiresome students…a mother dalmatian with a hundred and one hyper-spotted pups trying to roast her roost.
Teaching children isn’t easy – I spent nearly forty years of my semi-adult life professing to be an educator myself. I helped my wife raise three splendid triplets (three triplets — as though triplets come in any other number!), who are now freshmen at three different colleges. Buttoning onesies on three squirming one-year-olds while my wife attempted to grasp a minute’s sleep was like wrestling greased squid.
But in retrospect — it was really all much easier than I made it out to be at the time, both the formal classroom teaching and the child-rearing. Children learn far more from what we do than what we say – we all know that, though we can be immeasurably dense about that lesson at times. If we are frustrated, tired, angry, conflicted, and impatient – children will tend to react with something less than joy and happiness. They tend to mirror our own emotions with what neuroscientists are — surprise! — calling “mirror neurons.” So, shouldn’t we approach our own lives, and theirs, with greater ease and less struggle — and learn to live our precious time with them in as much harmony and joy as humanly possible? Or at least try….
Beginning to blog again is like having our triplet children home visiting: we sent all three off to three separate liberal arts colleges this past August — it was oddly like sending them off to school when they were four! Then, fifteen years later, at nineteen, they vanished from our household. But now, instead of returning after a few hours — they don’t come home until a few months have passed by.
Re-beginning this blog about raising children and parenting and “raising amazing learners” after such a long time of letting it sit on the shelf untended, well, it reminds me of a child who hasn’t been home for awhile….but now, has come home to announce, “Let’s talk!” Things have changed…but they haven’t changed all that much. With this blog, the same thoughts and ideas are there – but they haven’t been recorded for way too long a time.
I am a retired educator, still writing about education, married to an Episcopal priest who continues to be an amazing mother to our trio. I read, I cook, I study, I watch birds, and I learn about a camera smarter than I’ll ever be. And I am dedicated to learning enough about blogging to have the hope that someday my thoughts will cover at least a three-block area! Having taught English at a variety of levels, I love to end sentences with prepositions, start them with “And,” and read other people’s writing. But watching children grow and learn and develop into amazing human beings remains the greatest joy ever! Beginning again is a treat!