Watching Friday night’s presentation of The Nutcracker at Viterbo University was magical.
And just like that “magic in that old silk hat Frosty wore” – I believe there just had to be some magic sprinkled over every single child as they danced and cavorted in light and spirited moves around the stage.
Or else – how could they possibly have known what to do – or remember where to stand and be at any given moment -deliver the perfect action, the just-right- expression to wear?
For these were young children – many young children – children we know who are at an age that often ignore requests, don’t always listen to direction, daydream, say they’re bored, maybe decide to do things another way – or even complain they’re “too tired”.
But not this evening – not this time.
Of course Maria and the Nutcracker Prince and Godmother Drosselmeyer and many other mature dancers were very talented and lovely to watch, but it was the children who amazed and enchanted me.
Amazed and enchanted me because their performance was so wonder-filled and joyous.
So maybe – maybe – their performance was so wonder-filled because each of these children felt significant, knew how important they were for the whole to succeed, that their part, no matter how small, contributed to the beauty and success of the show?
They were a part of something big.
Maybe that was the magic of the night.
My ear is always open to someone sharing a good story – especially a personal one that resonates with me – that touches my heart – or tickles my funny bone.
From the time I first learned to read independently, I always loved biographies and remember devouring a series of children’s books at the time that featured the early lives of famous people from the past.
Actually I often find myself reading an obituary of someone I don’t even know. If I see a particularly lengthy one, I find myself curious about this person’s life – this person’s story being told for all to read – and I am often filled with awe with what even a simple life can mean.
And whenever someone of stature passes away, there are always stories galore that help to define and personalize what made that person memorable. I’m a fan of this kind of narrative – one that shares so many often unknown, often poignant, often compassionate anecdotes.
In some ways, I believe it’s the way history should be taught in schools – through true stories about people in history that give significant meaning to their contributions – to who they really were.
I’ve often suggested to parents to honor and share their family history in this way. If we can celebrate and learn about George Washington’s life, why not your deceased Uncle George’s – who lived an exemplary life of his own – with humor, diligence, caring and love – and lots of stories to be told.
“Let me tell you a story about Gramma Mary when she was your age.”
This is the simplest, most meaningful way to reveal what makes people’s lives authentic – to impress, to recognize that all of us have a story – and how beautiful it is to value them – to share them.
“Did I tell you the story about …
A friend shared a video on her phone recently of her grand-baby – blowing bubbles, gurgling and murmuring the totally precious “Ah goo!”
Oh how the sweet innocent sound of “Ah goo” is to our ears – whether the baby is ours or not.
But then there are the 9-month-olds who sometimes shriek just for the sheer enjoyment of using their voices, to the toddlers who mightily screech when something doesn’t quite go their way, to the preschoolers who just want to talk and talk and tell you everything – right this very minute, to the teenagers who perhaps only talk when they “feel”like talking… and it’s often difficult to remember how thrilled we were when we heard our baby’s first sounds.
However each one of these stages of our children’s verbal expressions is as important – as significant on their developmental path – as this baby’s melodic “Ah goo”.
But to be honest – it isn’t always easy to respond positively every time- to appreciate these later stages for what they are.
And so sometimes we don’t.
But when we do – when we pay heed to the message each stage shares – whether it’s delight, frustration, complaints, excitement, or conversation – we learn – it’s really all about reaching out.
It’s really all about connection – about connecting with us.
Oh, of course.
It happened again.
The word goes out to The Parenting Place Advisory group families that it’s that time of year – time to meet up at Riverside Park on an always chilly afternoon – to decorate The Parenting Place Rotary Lights Christmas tree.
This has been going on every November for many Novembers now.
It’s not always easy to lure people out of their cozy homes on a wintry Sunday afternoon (even when the Packers aren’t playing), but we have our dedicated families that have been showing up year after year.
And so we end up with a group ranging from preschoolers to middle -schoolers – even a high schooler – all arriving good-naturedly along with their parents – to catch the spirit – the spirit of coming together, working fast, enjoying hot chocolate, holiday cookies and donut holes – in between blowing on cold hands to try and warm them.
And as tradition has it – we work together, munch together, and then we play together.
This year it was a quick and rousing game of “sticker tag” – generating warmth and excitement from running, laughing,and shouting “Got you!”. All it takes is each person having a few sheets of colorful sticker dots – and the sound of GO – and watch out.
The person with the fewest dots on their jacket is the winner. Not that anyone cared who won.
It was just fun to chase and leave your mark!
And leave their mark they did – not only with stickers on my jacket but on my heart.
Thank you guys!
Brothers – that’s what resonated with me after our recent visit with our two grandsons, Theo and Zeke.
It seems that Zeke has sneaked out of babyhood and right on in to a young toddler with eyes toward and imitation of what his big brother Theo is doing.
Most of the time.
Sometimes still, however, you see him staring at his big brother – and then turning away as if to say ” I don’t think so – maybe not ready for that”.
Yet I can see already the friendship these two boys will enjoy – sense the bond that is growing.
On a chilly day after Halloween, Grandpa Dick and I were outside with the boys. They had their cut-out pumpkins on their wagon and they were busily digging and filling them with dirt from a nearby garden bed.
Watching them “work” together on this project proved the suggestion I’ve so often given to parents – “get your kids to work on a project together and you’ll feel the connection and the partnership grow.”
And work these two did. (they were pretty large pumpkins!) Of course it was made even more “magical” by a coin appearing now and then in the hole as they turned away to fill their pumpkins. (Remember I told you Grandpa Dick was there – and you know how grandpas can be!)
Ah, what a surprise – what a discovery! “There’s Gold in them thar holes!”
There was “gold” for sure – not only in the dirt pile, but definitely being discovered between two brothers – working together.
Tomorrow is Election Day – and that might not seem like a particularly family-oriented event … but … it could be!
Because children learn by participation.
So if we start when children are young – by talking about election day coming up – by sharing your voting experience with them by taking them to the polls with you – by watching you vote – by giving them one of the “I voted today” stickers to wear – by discussing issues with older children -I believe our children will grow to value and appreciate the significance – and the responsibility – of casting a personal vote for the candidates of their choice.
And … you know how children love to make choices.
You might even have some fun with voting participation at your house – for something as yummy as dinner – or snack. What will your vote be? How about a child-friendly ballot – perhaps for grilled cheese sandwiches? pizza? spaghetti? ice cream, your family favorites?
I say Vote Yes – for family participation!
Voting tomorrow – Tuesday, November 6th .
Make it a family affair.
It happens less and less these days – receiving a hand-written personal note in the mail.
But when or if it does, it can be a very special moment – a surprise gift..
I received one recently from a person who told me how much she enjoys reading my blog. It was one blog in particular about ironing that moved her to share her own personal memories that ironing played in her life – both as a child and a mom herself.
It was lovely.
I was moved, delighted and grateful to hear her story and to feel this bond that was made.
Last week I heard journalist Laura Ling speak at The Women’s Fund Fall Luncheon at UWL. Laura Ling had been held captive in a North Korean prison – and she spoke of the challenges and fear she faced.
And when she shared what her “take away” was from that horrifying experience, she said it comes down to the little moments in life that we share with people that can actually make the biggest difference.
And one of the things she mentioned was to acknowledge others with a personal note – a rare but beautiful act of kindness and connection.
And so I’ve been thinking, how, as parents, we might be missing a golden opportunity with our children – to read our words … see our handwriting …feel our caring … read it once … read it twice… put it away to maybe read again … save it … remember it.
A brief warm treasure of sharing – of affection..