12 Jan Simple Times
Just before Christmas, Party with Moms republished one of Anne’s classic columns, “What Do Children Really Want?” Her point is that children relish the time and attention of a loving relative. I was reminded of the truth of her concept last week when our two grandsons came to our house for a late Christmas, and ended up spending 24 hours with us.
The first evening was taken up with exchanging presents and having dinner with friends and relatives. The next day we had the gift of 12 unscheduled hours together. The boys are very athletic, and ordinarily our time together involves some vigorous physical activity. This time, though, they seemed very content with downtime.
What did we do? One, we played pick up sticks. They had found this (previously unknown to them) game in their Christmas stockings. We carefully examined the position of the sticks, discussing which ones could be retrieved without moving another stick.
Second, we watched The Mighty Ducks 1 and then 2 together and cheered when the Ducks triumphed against more physical and practiced teams with their unsportsmanlike, unscrupulous coaches. We discussed the moral issues presented in the films, especially the way the Ducks’ coach took a wrong turn in each film and then had to re-earn his players’ trust. It is important to watch the movies with children in order to comment on and counter the hurtful and unethical behavior exhibited by some characters. Besides, the boys like the company and sometimes will even allow a bit of an almost-snuggle.
We went to Dougie’s Standby on the Port Chester border for lunch, enjoying the good hot dogs and meatball sandwiches, but especially the Stewart’s sodas. We debated the merits of Orange & Cream, Root Beer, Black Cherry or Cream and resolved to try Grape in the future.
One (again very classic? old-fashioned?) gift that fascinated them was a wooden maze game which involved rolling a ball from one stop to another without letting it fall into a hole. Its very impossibility seemed to draw them back to it. We also read together a great story their maternal grandfather had written for, and starring, them. It garnered their full attention.
As members of extended families on both sides and a wide circle of friends as well, the boys have observed that relationships can sour and even end. This seems to be a topic of interest/concern to them. Part of the afternoon was devoted to a discussion of what can go wrong between people. We talked about good and not-so-good ways to treat others, and their contributions showed that they understand. Sometimes we forget that children observe and have questions about adults, even as we try to shield them from bad news.
Time with grandchildren is precious. We can give them our full attention, knowing that laundry, errands, cleaning, social media, and other work can wait. Children want this kind of time too. These simple, meaningful, enjoyable family times prove more than ever the truth of Anne’s wise column.
Marianne Riess is the former head of the Putnam Indian Field School in Greenwich, CT. She has 40 years of experience in working with young children.