Let the children play

The Spirit of Tehachapi

 

April 11, 2020

Pat Gracey

I just realized that this week was my deadline week for my column. With the "silent killer" flu lurking around my mind was elsewhere. I have found shopping online is quite interesting but I miss the satisfaction of the personal touch of tossing things in a shopping basket. I've been busy at home, however, praying and keeping track of friends and how they are doing. We stay cheerful and since we have no place to go or meetings to attend we have more time to stop and smell the flowers, so to speak. Since I had nothing prepared for my piece I found one I had written in 2016. Hope you haven't read it.

Let the children play

I was watching some children not long ago who were sitting without moving at all. A child sitting still? One was engrossed in a computer program and the other had a phone in her hand that was able to do everything but bake bread. These kids stayed engrossed for over an hour. They paused for lunch and then were back to their silent perusings. Today's computer age puts the world at their fingertips. They're too smart to think they can dig a hole in the ground and find China at the end. They know the exact miles we are from the moon and sun and they never just lie on their back on the lawn and watch the clouds make themselves into animal shapes. They already know there is no life on Mars. Has science destroyed their imagination?


When conjuring up memories of my own childhood I recall the vocabulary used by my parents that included phrases such as, "Don't slam the door!"and "Stay in or stay out!". How about "Shut the door!" Sometimes we didn't slam it at all, but left it wide open. Then we heard, "You kids, stop arguing!" or "Stop being silly and go to sleep! Stop fighting and go to sleep. Just go to sleep!" Even some of the phrases that we vowed we'd never ever say to our own children have been said multiple times! You may recall, "Stop crying, or I'll give you something to cry about." I never, ever, used that one, though.

At least when we were kids we were moving. Each generation has us listening to those who profess to know what was wrong with the former generation's method of rearing children. Now, you notice I said "rear." When we were in school the teacher said, "You raise chickens, and animals. You REAR children." I reared and raised both kids and animals. I find the "raising" word worked just fine for both. However science dictates the rules, the kids end up being the victims. But, you notice they do pretty well with a little love mixed in no matter what the experts tell us.


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In my early growing up days back in the 1930s, the pediatricians invented a "hands off" policy for infant care. If a baby was fed and dry it was not necessary to pick it up every time it cried. Fortunately, most Moms picked up anyway and cuddled the child. But, we had a neighbor, a young mother, who had "read the book" and was following the new wave instructions to the letter. If her little infant was crying, she'd say, "She has been fed and she has a dry diaper. She's all right." She probably was o.k. but maybe she wanted a little companionship and love.

We California 1930s school children, were taught strictly sight reading instead of phonics. It was a new technique that was supposed to revolutionize reading. I took to it but some kids didn't. Twenty years later, in 1950, Reader's Digest printed an article entitled, WHY JOHNNY CAN'T READ. You guessed it. They blamed sight reading and said both styles of reading techniques were needed. Imagine that. I have heard seasoned teachers tell me that often those who make up these methods never enter a classroom to test them.

We learned that money did not grow on trees and to go outside and play and don't slam the door. We played Kick the Can, Annie Over and Hide and Seek outside and gathered after dinner to listen to the radio. Not a bad time, really. Little Orphan Annie and Jack Armstrong, The All American Boy, were my favorites. Orphan Annie's sponsor was Ovaltine and Jack Armstrong sold Wheaties. I never buy either without thinking of Annie and Jack. The power of advertising.

I don't remember running into any kids that had not been cuddled as infants; at least it did not show. Kids survive pretty well. One boy, named Jerry, used to throw rocks at me on the way home from First Grade but that could have just been that he was mean. He did not do well with sight reading either. Needed phonics.

In the forties the nation, emerging from a war that had encompassed the world, found the returning veterans buying two bedroom homes for $9,000 and having children which they wanted to shelter and keep safe from the horrors of war; still fresh in their minds. Also they wanted to give them more than they had experienced growing up in the 30s depression. That was a good time.

Also, a study done in the 1940s revealed that the 30s "hands off" policy was psychologically not good. Babies needed nurturing and a closeness in order to develop properly. It took a study to find that out! Man! Any baby could have told you that. All the "hands off" stuff just told the child that crying did not help for nobody would come.

Naturally, in the 1930s I was just a child but my mother was a reader and at our dinner table she'd share with our Dad, while we listened, all that she had read or heard on the news (radio) that day.

I knew the Dione Quintuplets names and who was playing in the World Series. I had heard the daily soap operas and still remember the soap they advertised. Many of them did advertise soap; thus being termed, "Soap Operas." Ma Perkins sold Oxydol, a laundry soap. Pepper Young's Family sold Camay Facial Soap, "The soap of beautiful women." Mert and Marge was Super Suds. It had a jingle that sang, "Lots more suds with Super Suds." I can still sing it. My first experience with the music of DeBussy was when the piano piece, Clair de Lune was the theme music for The Story of Mary Marlin. Lovely song. Radio was o.k. and one could get a lot of work done and be entertained as well.

I just heard my inner voice telling me to get to the point. Each generation is different. What does not change is the love we have for one another and our children. That's the main ingredient. But I think that reading a "real" book and making up plays and stories, and just being silly with each other is good. I don't want them to miss reading Tom Sawyer, The Secret Garden, Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island. The real books, not the movie or even TV versions. Real books: those printed volumes that lie on a shelf somewhere. Did 'ja ever play Wood Tag or Button, button, who's got the button? Twenty Questions? Kind of communicate verbally?

Looking back it makes me want to say, "Let the children play."

 
 

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