Monday, June 29, 2009

Quotable Monday

"Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods"

--C.S. Lewis, Irish scholar and author (1898-1963)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Toys and play

I've been thinking about toys, play and imagination lately.

I read something in Whole Child/Whole Parent that I keep coming back to (paraphrased): A toy is just the means of discovery. Once a child has learned whatever he or she can from one particular toy, he will become uninterested in it. Toys and play give children opportunities to learn about the world.

This makes sense because I've seen it happen. If I take my three year old to a garage sale selling toys, he will be mesmerized and play with whatever they have for as long as I will let him. But if I were to buy every toy they had, he would be ignoring them in a day or two because the toys would offer him nothing new. The initial entertainment value of any toy fades really quickly--unless it is the kind that requires imagination to use.

Some time ago I read an article on play that I also keep returning to; it talked about how there has been a negative shift towards replacing play with educational activity. This is a mistake because children learn about the world through their play, and sad because children's imaginations are under-utilized when play gets pushed aside for 'more important' activities. What is a child if not a creature of imagination?

I try to stay away from feeding my kids tv and toys with batteries because (besides the jangling noises) I think of them as the junk food of play--they tend to be things that short-shrift imagination. Battery run toys do one thing, and one thing only. A talking toy piano will always be just a talking toy piano. But a bucket? A bucket can be a hat, a stool, a pot for cooking, a mold for sand--anything, really.

Naturally, I've been thinking back on what I liked playing with as a child, and I think I can pretty safely say that my favorite toy was my dollhouse. Yes, the dollhouse was always a dollhouse, but every new play session offered the potential for something new to be created in story. Even unused, the dollhouse sat waiting for someone to come and make up a new story to happen between the little walls. I still have the dollhouse in a crate in the basement, and all the tiny furniture I collected over the years tucked away in boxes, waiting for some other child to bring them back to life. I couldn't ever possibly feel the same way about an old video or remote controlled car I used to love as a kid.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Debating kid's shows/stories

I've been having a mental debate about the kind of stories I read to my three year old and the kind of DVDs I let him watch. I've been noticing that a lot of the shows and books that try to teach "moral lessons" go about it in a way that I'm not sure is such a great way to teach a three year old. Generally, it seems that the way these lessons are conveyed is a character acts in a way that is mean, or selfish, and then another character steps in and points out the error of their ways. Basic, and I'm not sure there is another way to do this, but my problem with this is that it nicely illustrates bad behavior to my three year old. Before it teaches him to be good, it teaches him to be bad. For instance, a character in a Sesame Street story calls someone stupid. Eventually, they learn the lesson that it's not kind to call anyone stupid. But I doubt my three year old has ever heard anyone be called stupid or called anyone stupid himself (outside of stories), and now Sesame Street has showed him how.

This mostly just applies to shows, because with books, so far I've only taken issue with the crappy ones - the ones that sell just because they have Elmo on the cover, you know the type. I haven't noticed this kind of writing in any of our favorite books, and besides, I can always change the words!

I might be making a mountain out of a molehill here, but I know my son is deeply affected by stories, whether written or watched. Every day he speaks 'in story' - combining phrases from different stories we've read into strange sentences that sometimes make sense and sometimes don't. Every day I hear him repeating something we've read, or saying a phrase from Thomas Train. He thinks 'in story', because he will apply phrases he's learned to what he is doing at any given moment.

I checked out the first movie he's ever watched, Cars, from the library this week. I wouldn't have even considered it, but an older boy that befriended my son in the children's room started pulling DVDs off the shelf for him and came to me, saying, 'please, please?' Then of course, booga really wanted to bring one home, and I gave in. Partly because every child seems to have seen this movie, and I was curious. And it turns out Lightning McQueen is a pretty distasteful character until he reforms in the end. He's the cool hero of the movie, and he's a jerk. I think my son is still too young to process that heroes who act like jerks are doing something they shouldn't. I'm pretty certain he is not watching Lightning McQueen thinking, 'boy, he sure is selfish' -- he's just absorbing what he sees.

Since I don't really want him to absorb bad behavior until he can identify it as bad behavior, I'm going to be careful about the stories that get brought into our house. I'm glad we don't watch any TV (I used to let booga watch Sesame Street, but we don't get the channel anymore), and I think I will try to hold off on movies for the most part for another year at least. I'm okay with Thomas Train and Elmo DVDs (although his one-dimensionality gets to me).There's just an intensity difference between the trains on Thomas being quarrelsome, and loud flashy movie characters being bad.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Quotable Monday

Tree House

A tree house, a free house,
A secret you and me house,
A high up in the leafy branches
Cozy as can be house.

A street house, a neat house,
Be sure and wipe your feet house
Is not my kind of house at all-
Let's go live in a tree house.

--Shel Silverstein, author, illustrator, poet, musician (1930-1999)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The wrong response to Dr. Tiller's death

I received a forwarded email written by Randall Terry,"The Right Response to Dr. Tiller's Death", which you can read here . Dr. George Tiller, late-term abortionist, was murdered on Sunday. I wrote the following response to the sender. (Randall Terry founded the anti-abortion activist group Operation Rescue, but is no longer affiliated; he left the group in 1991)

I received this email this morning - and I strongly do not think this is a good response to Dr. Tiller's death, and I do not think it should be forwarded on to as many as possible. Why? Because Mr. Terry does not express ANY remorse over the fact that Dr. Tiller was murdered; he only expresses remorse over how the pro-life movement will be vilified as a result of the murder. Instead of lamenting yet another violent act, he turns the affair into a 'boo-hoo for us, now everyone will hate us' rant. I know it is hard to truly regret the death of a man who did so much destruction (and obviously Terry is having trouble with this) but we must do so because Dr. Tiller was unjustly murdered and we are supposed to be the ultimate 'respecters of life'. If we pro-lifers really want to build a culture that respects life, our response to Dr. Tiller's murder can't be as shallow and self-seeking as Mr. Terry's is in this letter! Nowhere in this letter do I see the Christ-like virtue of loving ones enemy, nowhere. That upsets me. There are much better responses to Dr. Tiller's death from the pro-life community, such as:

Please let me know what you think if you have time. I am grateful for all you do for the unborn!


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tuesday is trash day

I think I might have crushed a dream today. My three year old and I were outside today when the recycling truck came down the alley. He begged me to stop doing yard work so we could watch the truck. When it pulled up to our curb, the driver motioned us over so we could watch the recycling get compacted into the truck. We did, and it was loud. I heard a bit of a whimper and looked to see my boy (who regularly runs around happily saying 'Tuesday is trash day!' and who, at the first distant rumble of a garbage truck, drops anything in order to get to a window as fast as possible) frowning deeply. His lower lip quivered, "I want to go inside!" and when we did, these words: " I do NOT like garbage trucks!"

Monday, June 1, 2009

Quotable Monday

"The world has weekends, and we have holy days. The world prepares us to be food for worms; the Church invites us to the wedding feast of the Lamb."

--Anthony Esolen, professor of English and senior editor for Touchstone magazine. (Read the whole article here).