pen pals

Sometimes I hear a report on the news that just makes my heart sing.

Really-  you’re thinking – on the news?

This was a human interest story about 8-year-old students in a school in Texas that were learning to write in cursive.  Along with this newly developed skill, they also learned the art of letter writing,  and each young student was given a Senior Citizen pen pal to write to – in cursive.

Their Senior Citizen pen pals wrote back to them – in cursive.

And so their relationships  – and their skills – grew!

The children were thrilled when mail call happened at school, and they received  their letters from their pen pals.

The teacher was blown away by the children’s anticipation, by their enthusiasm to learn and practice cursive, to so generously share news with their older friends, and their genuine delight in reading their personal pen pal letters.

Of course their Senior Citizen friends were thrilled with the opportunity to have this special contact with young children, to learn about what was going on in their pen pal’s life –  and, in turn, share what they enjoyed doing – both now and when they were 8-years-old.

And then … after getting to know each other through letter writing, these same children and their senior friends got to meet up in person.

And it appeared to be like meeting old friends.

In this fast-paced world of face book, instagram, snapchat, texting …, it is beautiful and heartwarming to see these young children take the time to write and share with another generation, and find, in doing so, commonalities, connections , and joy for all .

You see…. no wonder it makes my heart sing!

 

 

 

 

 

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a new house

It’s quite an experience to watch first hand a house being built – and I have this vantage point right now from my kitchen sink window.

And even though I originally thought it would be noisy, dusty and annoying, it has, instead, been so very fascinating and positive to watch and observe.

And it’s not just me – it seems to have caught the fancy of the whole neighborhood.

As for myself, (big secret!) I can never help making analogies to family – to parenting.

For by observing this house-building process, from pouring a strong foundation, to firmly framing and reinforcing the structure of the house itself, to creating the different living spaces, to remembering the windows to allow the light to come in, to adding the doors both to welcome and close for privacy, to finally the roof to protect and shelter, I also see what it takes to build a family.

But, of course, it doesn’t end there.  Because there are so many more small but significant finishing touches and personal decisions to be made and integrated to turn this house into their home.

And within this new structure, a young family with a young daughter and a new baby on the way will fill these spaces, feel the security, and grow together as a family, continuing to build their own foundation and structure of togetherness.

Welcome to the neighborhood.

 

 

 

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you go young girl

In today’s world most children are highly protected – some may say over-protected  – with little chance to experience the freedom of play and exploration, without the constant watch of adults and directed activities.

But then – there’s the young girl of perhaps 7 or 8-years-old that I keep thinking about.

I saw her in Walgreens buying a litre bottle of coke around 7:00 in the evening.  She had with her a small bag from the taco store across the avenue.  I assume she had it figured out she’d get more pop for her money by crossing over the busy 4-lane street to buy her drink there.

She paid with loose change.  I held my breath that she would have enough – and had my change in the ready in case she didn’t.

But she did.

And out she went – all seriousness – with her taco bag and big litre of coke in hand, and got on her small bicycle, (helmet free),  trying to balance the coke (which looked gigantic under the circumstances) and hang on to the handle bars at the same time.

It was precarious to say the least, but she made it across West Ave. – setting the bottle down first on the meridian and then getting her bike up – doing the same on the curb side of the street.

And then off she rode into the neighborhood.

And this was several weeks ago and I still think about her.

I feel pretty sure that was this little girl’s dinner – and maybe she’d done this same thing before.

But, somehow, I believe, there should be a happy medium – where children are definitely allowed to be children, to do their growing up through play and childish adventure, but with the security and support of adults behind them.

My instinct was that this young girl might not have that privilege.

And it makes me sad.  Yet I couldn’t help but feel hopeful for her too – because I sensed such a resilience and determination in her to figure things out as best she could.

So I’m keeping her in my heart.

You go young girl – you go!

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swinging

There are several swing sets in our neighborhood, and many more we’ve all seen in yards across the city – but so often when you see them, they are lonely and still.

But in the yard behind ours, there is a swing set that belongs to two young sisters – and it is the busiest swing set in town.

It was in daily motion last summer –  snowsuited- and- mittened -up -action even all through the winter – and now once again, serious spring fun taking place.

I can tell the way these girls swing that this is a way for them to relax.  It’s purposeful – the arc of the swing high, their learned pumping skills strong.

And to watch them – to sense their purposeful energy – is to know the joyful release they are experiencing.

I think this is a reminder for all of us, as busy parents and adults, to find what it is for ourselves that relaxes us- that makes our spirits soar.

Perhaps it is to think back to the time when we were a child, and remember what it was that gave us that personal sense of freedom – and then seek our own “grown-up” version –  a version that satisfies and emboldens us by the very act of doing it.

“How do you like to go up in a swing,

Up in the air so blue?

Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing

Ever a child can do!”  Robert Stevenson

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unconditionally

“We love him unconditionally” a grandmother just shared with me.

Others have asked me, “what does unconditional love even mean?

When we love someone unconditionally, there are no conditions to our love.  We don’t just love our children when they are performing well, succeeding, pleasing, but also when they annoy us, disappoint us, challenge us, worry us.

Because it is often at these times that our children need our love the most.

When I was teaching first graders, I realized quickly that the child who was acting out or being challenging was the child who was actually teaching me to think about my program, my structure, my expectations, my affirmation.

And that’s what unconditional love expects from us.

It’s not about being perfect, as the child or the parent, but it is about being present, listening, caring, accepting, supporting, affirming, changing.

Author Stephen Covey wrote “love is not just a feeling.  Love is a verb.”

And as we all learned in elementary school, a verb is an action word.

And so as parents, grandparents, and all who care for children –  when disappointment comes, when challenges rear, when we feel perplexed and insecure, we need to trust in ourselves and  in our relationship with our child.

We need to  listen…to support …sometimes, to change… to affirm… to act.

That’s what unconditional love is.

 

 

 

 

 

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a weekend

Okay – it’s not just me, is it?  Or did this past weekend seem extra long – extra full of rain, sleet, snow – and then more snow – when it was Spring that we were expecting.

After all, it is definitely time to move on – to shed those winter boots and jackets and walk out into the warmth of Springtime sun.

But, instead, we wait – and we find ways to be patient, to enjoy the unpredictable nature of weather, to throw a bundle of seeds out for the birds who are waiting as we are, and watch them swarm to the feast spread out before them.

That was a treat for us to watch.

And then, as the weekend passed, I recalled reading some time ago the number of weekends between the day your child is born and the time he or she turns 18 – nine hundred and forty weekends – two hundred and sixty of them are gone by the 5th birthday.

Ah perspective – long weekends bring them on.  Put in those terms, who would ever complain?

As a parent of grown children, I can attest – the years do go by faster than you realize.

And so – when we have what seems like an extra long weekend, embrace it – make the most of it (sometimes by doing the least) and believe.

Spring will come.

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appreciate differences

“Why are you black?”  a little girl asked the young black boy playing next to her at the sensory table at Friday’s Play Shoppe – an innocent age-appropriate inquiry from an inquisitive child to ask.

As adults, however, we often cringe at this kind of child-like boldness.  We might try to hush it, to even label it as impolite, insensitive, unwelcoming, embarrassing, taboo.

But actually this is the way young children learn, understand, accept, become friends, grow.  This simple question is not based on fear or insecurity or dislike, but with an honest, genuine need to know.

In fact the pure simplicity of the question begs a simple answer. “People come in all different colors.”

At that morning’s art area, children were creating paper towel tube people.  This was an open-process activity.  There were no set rules or model from which to copy.  There were several different paint colors – purple, black, yellow, green, pink ; ribbons, pieces of material, yarn, googly eyes.

Every paper towel tube person came out different – every paper towel tube person was an individual – and amazingly rich and colorful and imaginative they were.

So perhaps we can learn from the directness of this little girl.

Perhaps it is our responsibility – a combination of asking and responding to the questions, to the differences in our world – honestly, openly -both as children and adults – welcoming and inviting opportunities to learn, accept, discover.

And perhaps one day we will  all be as comfortable and open to the differences in our world as these children were with their colorful, unique, lovely paper towel tube people.

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