Sunday, April 29, 2012

What CJ has taught me...

Have you ever read the book of short essays by Robert Fulghum All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? I have.  I don't remember who gave this to me or when I got it, but I know that the title is a true statement.

The book starts out with the basic truths:

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.
These are the things I learned:
  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don't hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don't take things that aren't yours.
  • Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush. (and I'd like to add, wash your hands after you flush)
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.
Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.  Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.  And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

I don't know if I could add any lessons to make this list better.  It's pretty conclusive, no doubt.  However, I do think that in accordance with this lesson, CJ has taught me a few things and he did so in one short afternoon.  

Instead of reading or writing or Facebooking (yeah -it's a verb) or Tweeting or Pinning or cleaning...well, this list could go on for an eternity...I sat an watched my son play by himself in the backyard.  I find myself at utter peace when I do this, and I wish I could do this more often.  Sigh.  

Taking a break...
He started this hour long extravaganza by digging.  My son has dug a hole in the backyard that is easily big enough to hide several bodies packed in there like sardines.  Not his intent of course, but his macrabe mother has several people to throw in.  I digress.  I watched him methodically dig in his shovel, jump on it a few times, and come up with a little bit of dirt.  Not a lot of output for the amount of input.  But, this did not stop him.  He went right back in with his shovel, over and over again until he'd flung out a decent amount of dirt.  He stood proudly looking down into his hole, deemed it satisfactory, and went off to his next task.  He'll dig again another day, but for now, this task is over.

This was at the beginning - it's huge now!

The lesson:  Sometimes you have to dig in, dig deep, dig hard and it isn't easy.  Your input will be greater than your output most of the time, but that doesn't mean you stop digging.  And, when you're done, walk away with no remorse.  It's okay to walk away.

His next task was jumping on his trampoline.  But, because my son is the master of challenging himself, this was no regular affair. He spent a few minutes gathering every ball in our backyard from tennis balls, to baseballs, to soccer balls, to basketballs (all plural) and put them in the trampoline with him.  He then proceeded to climb in a jump like crazy.  Balls flying everywhere and his goal was to duck and dodge.  He was good at it to, only once or twice did a ball hit him.  He jumped so hard a few of them flew out of the trampoline and thudded to the ground.  This went on for awhile and then when he was done, he took all the balls out, returned them to where they went (mostly strewn about the yard - he chucked quite a few of them as hard as he could and watched them fly away), and was off to his next task.

The lesson:  A lot of things are thrown at us in our lives, hell - sometimes we throw them at ourselves.  But, we have to juggle all of it, ducking and bobbing and weaving when necessary in order to avoid being completely overwhelmed.  Sometimes we just have to bounce some things right out of our lives, good or bad.  Other times, we need to chuck them as far away from us as possible.  And when it's time to stop jumping and juggling, once again, it's okay to walk away.

Next event, hanging on the fence.  He does this even though he's not supposed to.  I was so enamored with his day, I didn't have the heart to correct him.  I'm glad I didn't.  Our fence runs the length of several yards, it's freakishly large for being in the middle of a neighborhood.  Our neighborhood street is often void of other children his age.  When he's out front, there's no one that appears to play with.  However, a new family moved in to one of the houses that backs up to our property.  CJ climbed the fence and hung over the edge.  "Hey," he shouted to the two boys in the back yard.  "Hey back," they replied.  A little ritual reminiscent of Jem and Scout meeting Dill for the first time in To Kill a Mockingbird. Now, he wants to play with these boys all the time.  They've been to the house, I've let CJ go to their house (panicking the entire time).  They are his new friends and he is happy.

The lesson:  Obstacles don't have to be obstacles.  Climb the fence.  You never know what's on the other side.

Finally, after a day of digging, jumping, climbing, he settled in to flying his kite.  Kite flying is a art form, one he's slowly mastering.  He starts at the top of the hill and runs like a mad-man coaxing the kite into the air.  Sometimes it flies, sometimes it crashes.  When it does come tumbling down, he walks back to the top of the hill and starts over again, with the same fervor and desire to propel this item into the air as the first time.  And when he gets it flying high, he laughs.  An infectious laugh that hugs you to your soul.

The lesson:  Things don't have to be extravagant to make us happy.  They just have to be. Sometimes little things make the biggest impression, and when they don't - turn around and start over.  Try again.  This time, your kite just might fly.

He ended his day with reading a book.  I think that lesson is self-explanatory.

I wonder just when it is that we all lose these ideas? When life becomes so jaded we forget the smallest things bring the greatest joy and the childhood lessons we inherently know disappear. I wish I could find that moment, and make it go away.  Return everyone to the happy pleasures they knew when nothing was really wrong with the world.  My son is eight years old.  He has only a few more years of elementary school and then middle school will strike and they'll force him to make choices for the rest of his life way too soon.  If I could, I would cocoon him from this inevitable fate, and keep him simple and safe and sound digging holes and flying kites.

And we'd have warm cookies and milk everyday, just before our nap.


  1. So very true. I spend a lot of my time with both of my grandchildren trying to find all those moments and they usualy let me join in for a while. This is very well written and gald to see that you see the moments too.