Monday, December 10, 2018

Conversations With A Four-Year Old

We've been doing a bit of child care lately. A couple of hours a week spent with either our four year old grandson or his seven year old sister. Not both at the same time because they have different schedules, and honestly we haven't honed our skills to take on a task of that magnitude with such high energy little beings.
We have arranged the living room so that the kids have access to the new colored pencils, the new construction paper, and all the new stickers to play with at their leisure. They love it. Much time is spent on the floor with papers and pencils strewn everywhere, scissors and glue too. We don't use our fireplace, so it's become their art exhibition wall. They love that as well. We have a cork board in our bedroom filled with their art and love notes.

The other day Ian was here with us for the morning. He wanted me to draw a Christmas tree, which I did and which led to a brief discussion about why we don't have a Christmas tree, how I never had a tree when I was growing up. I couldn't figure out how to explain to his sweet four-year old mind that I came from a Jewish family that did not participate and why that was true. We also did not celebrate Hanukkah and that we were not religious in any way. When is it time to talk to kids about religion and god, or no god? I have no idea.
So I drew this tiny six-inch Christmas tree that Ian colored in. I also cut out a lovely little snowman from some holiday wrapping paper we have. Ian decided we should tape them both to the wall. I told him I could cut out little presents and tape them to the wall under the tree. He said no, we should get real presents and put them under there. Mmmm... that's not going to happen. He was content that we had this little Christmas tree.

We drove him home at noon to meet up with his mom. While we were there he and I were hanging out in his bedroom. He was showing me all the little treasures he has in his little treasure box. It was wonderful stuff. We talked about the planets he has taped to his ceiling, each arranged in a particular distance from the ceiling light, which of course is the sun. He loves celestial stuff. I love talking with him about it and showing him photos of atmospheric optics. While we were in there he asked me if I had a wedding ring. I told him I didn't. He seemed perplexed. He said, "You had your hands in your pocket. Maybe you put your ring in there. Empty your pockets." I laughed and emptied my pockets. "You don't have a wedding ring? Grandpa should have given you a ring." I told him that Grandpa and I are non-traditionalists. We don't always do the usual things. We like it that way. He looked at me like none of it made any sense. Someday he'll understand. It's a little like not having a Christmas tree.

28 comments:

  1. Love that you have made your fireplace an art exhibition wall. I thoroughly enjoyed looking closely at the grandchildrens' drawings. That's a sweet Christmas tree you drew for Ian at his request, with accompanying happy snowman. Good question about children and religion and god or no god.

    Although I have memories of going to church as early as 2 years old and learned to say the Lord's Prayer without understanding the words when I was 3 years old, I don't remember thinking about religious ideas until I was
    at least 7 years old and in Sunday School. My memory is that we were shown a black and white photo of a large city, maybe New York, with a picture of Jesus superimposed on it. We could see through Jesus to the buildings behind him. His arms were extended with his palms up. We were told that God is everywhere. My impression was that the teacher was telling us that Jesus/God was a transparent semi-kind-looking giant, and I was skeptical. I clearly remember the boy who giggled and said, "You mean that God is in my pocket?" The teacher said, "Yes." My guess is that we weren't the only skeptical children in that class (-:

    Santa Claus and Christmas and Easter and the Easter Bunny were another thing entirely. I remember believing in Santa Claus and then learning that there was no such thing as Santa Claus when I was around 6 years old. No Easter Bunny either. No wonder many children raised going to Christian churches are skeptical when told about Jesus and God.

    I love listening to Mavis Staples sing wholeheartedly about God and Jesus. With Mavis, I sense that she is not singing about belief but about personal experience. I can say that I have no doubt that she, like Martin Luther King, Jr., and others I respect, has experienced God and Jesus in a way that I haven't and that experience makes them radiant. I have no doubt that some people who embrace atheism, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, or any other religion or spiritual tradition or non-religious or non-spiritual tradition have experienced something I have not experienced either, and I see their radiance. So far, I have no name for my experience of illuminated consciousness, and I know that I am not alone with my experience.

    Babies and young children have a radiance, too, before the thought of god or no god is entertained. It's a mystery to me. Blake wrote about innocence and experience.

    "To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour."

    I love that you told Ian that you and roger are non-traditionalists. Ian can store the gift of that thought with the experience of being loved by both of you.

    I didn't expect to write so much (-:

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    1. am-- Oh wow, you remind me how we started our mornings in elementary school in the 50s and early 60s reading from the bible and reciting the Lord's Prayer in public schools. I'll always be grateful that ended. I understand the spiritual passion for believing in something greater than yourself. It's a beautiful thing to sing and chant about, to embark on pilgrimages for, to celebrate, meditate, and dream. I'm a firm believer in the oneness of all living things, the beauty of our earth. Thank you for writing all of it down. Much appreciated.

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  2. I was going to remark when I first saw the tree and snowman that the grandchildren are excellent artists. Oops!
    Ian's a bit young for the explanation of what the wedding ring represents. It's such a weird, weird obsession western culture has with women being "pure."
    I don't think Ian's too young to be told that different people believe different things, so not everyone celebrates the same things in the same way. I'd rather see children learning that lesson young, so they learn young to accept differences.

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    1. CCorax-- The kids really do most of the drawings, I was surprised when Ian asked me to draw the tree. It was sweet. I think we'll have lots of conversations in the future about all kinds of things. They're just starting to notice that I am brown, have brown eyes, and look nothing like the rest of their biological family.

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  3. Dave and I don't have rings either. It always perplexes people, but we just don't like jewelry so we never got them!

    I don't even think of a Christmas tree as a religious symbol. It's more pagan than anything, though of course Christianity has co-opted it! I wondered if you did Hanukkah instead.

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    1. Steve-- I love knowing that you and Dave don't have rings. I do wear earrings and sometimes an old beaded necklace. Interesting about Christmas trees and the times of pagan rituals. I would love if the planet celebrated the seasonal changes of light. That I would love. I'm not sure why my family didn't celebrate Hanukkah, but we never did. We always celebrated Passover though. Mmmm? This may take some phone calls to siblings and cousins!

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    2. I have found that I MUST wear a wedding ring to fend off the numerous would-be suitors that are constantly eyeing me. Hahahahahaha!

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    3. Tara!!! That is so funny. Thank you for making me laugh.

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  4. Surprising that he asks these questions as a four year old. You wonder how he interprets these things. It will be interesting to hear his story later.

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    1. Red-- Yes! I was thinking the same thing. He really is so observant and inquisitive. We love it.

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  5. You were probably already the subject of warnings as his snowsuit was being pulled on in order to come visit you. I'd say, fire away. ;-)

    Once when our son was maybe 5, my parents were here and we headed to Whidbey Island to visit my mom's uncle. They were church people, in particular her uncle's wife. Upon encountering one of those iconic Jesus pictures hanging in a hallway, our son blurts out, "Who's that?". The deal was sealed a bit later when we sat down to dinner and he had no idea why we were closing our eyes and mumbling instead of just eating.

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    1. Phil-- I love your story. It's been an interestig life growing up without any religious instruction. There were a couple of bar mitzvahs in the extended family, but not in mine. We never went to temple. I can't imagine what life would be like if we had.

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  6. Love how you let them create rather that let them be entertained. That is how all kids should be raised. Well done. He really was far more aware of some things that I don't think I was at 4. But you handled it well. Enjoy the challenges and rewards.

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    1. Patti-- Yes! The kids never watch TV. They are very focused on art and gardens. They know the names of so many flowers and plants in their yard. It's a pleasure watching them grow up.

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  7. Those are special conversations. He is lucky to have his non-traditional grandparents - they will open up the world for him.

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    1. Colette-- Thank you so much for these truly kind words.

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  8. I have to admit, that age range is not my favorite, but you seem like you are enjoying it. I like teenagers. Everyone thinks I'm crazy, but it's true.

    I like that you have your non traditions. We are not a religious family, but when my kids were small, they wanted to celebrate Hanukkah. Why not? So for years we had a tree and a menorah, and our tree topper is a Star of David.

    Oh, and I have no wedding ring either. My significant other (of 31 years) and I never bothered to get married.

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    1. Sharon-- I never had children. I met Roger when his daughters were 7 and 11 years old, so this is really my first time hanging around with really young kids. It's interesting. My sister told me the other day that her son put a Star of David on his Christmas tree this year. I like that idea very much! And I love that you and your significant other have been together for 31 years sans wedding rings and vows!

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  9. Oh great post. Sometimes it is difficult to try to explain a "non-traditional lifestyle" to a young one who is not used to that. I think you handled it extremely well, Robin. Someday, somewhere, I'd like to meet you.

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    1. Catalyst-- So glad you like this post. I often wonder if I should share these personal stories, and it turns out I should! Yes, it would be lovely if our paths crossed sometime.

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  10. What a sweet and charming story. I loved it.

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  11. I think kids at that age are trying to make sense of the world, so they want to figure out what category each thing must be in. Finding that something doesn't fit into one of their categories might be confusing at first, but it probably helps them learn that not everything is going to fit into neat categories.

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    1. Mark-- Yes, I think they are trying to make sense of the world. I am so happy I can be a part of that early learning.

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  12. oh, this is a delightful post, Robin!! You are teaching him by simple example that there are many ways of doing things and living in this world. Imagine his little brain wondering what the heck you are all about! ANd I love that he is taping hand made planets to the ceiling instead of using those day-glo PLASTIC thingys. Of course the ceiling light is the sun!

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    1. Tara-- Oh yes, they will definitely see a whole different world. It's so interesting watching little kids mature.

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  13. How wonderful to be able to spend time with your grandkids one at a time. I was having a conversation with a Jewish friend last night at a tree trimming party we were both at, and we were wondering why Christmas trees are so exclusively associated with the Christian tradition when in fact the Christmas tree is pagan tradition. I love opinionated little ones.

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    1. 37paddington-- It's such an interesting question. Why and when did the Christmas trees become a part of the Christian tradition. It is a lovely tradition. Now I want to google around to see if gifts were always part of the season. We love opinionated little ones too. They have such a presence.

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