For this author, creative endeavors have been sorely tested by motherhood. But also transformed, and in ways she wouldn’t have imagined – couldn’t have, without her life “rewritten” as it has been, by her children. So linger here, to read all things weaverly, writerly and motherly.


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Friday, April 15, 2011

Never Smile at a Monkey

On the way to Gramma’s, my six year old was telling me why you should never smile at a monkey: because he will think you are baring your teeth for a fight. And never stare at a snake. “Oh, and DON’T touch an electric caterpillar because its spikes will kill you.”

These are things he said he’d learned from a book they’d read in school, but I hadn’t heard about before the long drive to Gramma’s house. It actually wasn’t all that long, a little over an hour, but as our two boys have gotten older, as much as they love going to see Gramma (who let’s them play with her tool box and cats), they complain more about the long “boring” drive.

The thing I’ve discovered about this drive is that it’s the one time I can enforce a kind of boredom when my kids don’t feel compelled to be doing something every moment. They don’t have the choice of computer time or TV. Neither owns a DS. They don’t have all their games and toys.

When they were little, I’d time the drive around their naps. Now that they are older and starting to read, I give them each a pile of books to thumb through, or their sketchbooks for doodling. Or I turn on the radio, and they are instantly quiet and gazing out the window. Ryan will lose himself in his own world of “action spider,” where he makes his hand crawl up and down the window. Kenny might drift off to sleep, or, as much as I’m not thrilled with it, contentedly pick his nose.

By enforcing this boredom, when, if they aren’t reading or drawing, there is really NOTHING to do, their minds are free to wander to places otherwise they may not have time for in their daily lives of school, homework, and even intense pretend play. There are those big questions that come up, like Ryan asking me about whether dead people are buried under those “rocks” in a graveyard. Even those questions about how they were born come up again, and Ryan will tell Kenny about the “door” in Mommy’s tummy. Or the less-big questions but still hard-to-answer ones: “What is rust?” Kenny asked, days after I’d asked him not to leave his scooter out in the rain because it would do just that, rust. At the time, he’d just been annoyed that he had to put his scooter away.

When they were little, the questions were more practical: “Why can’t we just get a ladder and climb up to the moon?” Ryan once asked. That was when he was still little enough to believe cars had faces, and he would remark on all their expressions – trucks had the friendliest faces and sports cars the meanest.

This “boredom” I would also call daydreaming; their minds wander to things they’ve learned but hadn’t really had time to ponder, like why exactly we don’t fall off the earth when it is turning. And that the sun is actually still shining when we are asleep. (They used to think the sun went to sleep at night and woke in the morning.)

“Did you know we have a mirror in our eye?” Ryan said on one trip, something he was learning in his first grade health class, but that I didn’t necessarily get to hear about before this, when they’d be preoccupied with the drudgery of homework, after riding scooters or playing cars. He also was learning that our hearts have “doors” that open and close. And Kenny was learning about monkeys, snakes and caterpillars.

Then we’re almost be to Gramma’s house. At the turning point in the road where there is a pond, they stop listening to music, or asking questions, or ruminating on all the new things they’ve learned, to see if there are the two swans that have been there all winter. Now that it’s spring, we look to see if they are building a nest, as every season there will be baby swans to watch grow.

“We’re almost here already?” One or the other will ask.

“Yup. Already.”


Debra Ann Elliott said...

Thanks for stopping by. Love your blog.

JDaniel4's Mom said...

Stopping from Mom Loop! JDaniel and I just went on an eight hour road trip. We had the best chats.

Karen L Kay said...

That is a great idea! I think I'll take my Son for a "drive" this weekend. We don't have far to go to Nana's, and she usually like to pick him up anyway. So we don't ride in the car much. I have found that the few minutes we talk at bedtime can result in these same meandering thoughts.... that really are gold, when you think about it!


(Mom Loop Friday Comment Follow)

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

Stopping by from Mom Loop. The conversation in the car always interests me too. Funny commentary about things passing by. Watch out for those monkeys though!

Linda M. Crawford said...

Sandra, I enjoyed your post immensely. It brought back fond memories of putting 4 energetic children in the car for a drive to grandpa & grandma's house - a 19 hour long drive I might add and no VCR in our car!! It forced us to talk with each other, and what fun conversations we had. One time, our 12 yr old son recited the movie, Space Balls (the PG version). I fell asleep in the middle of it and awoke to him reciting the last scene. We still laugh about that to this day.

Stopping by from Mom Loop Friday!

Christina said...

I remember riding to my grandma's when I was little. No t.v., no games, we did get books (like you mentioned), but mostly we talked or daydreamed. Such important pieces in kids' lives that are often missed with all the technology today...
Returning the visit from Mom Loop

Alessandra @ Tribal Times said...

I do remember those long car rides too! I love to hear all those wonderful thoughts come to life as we peruse down the countryside!

Yes I Blog said...

New follower from Blog Frog!!!

It's a pretty long drive from my house to my parents too, my kids always complain!

Mary said...

Love it! Visiting from mom loop. And I love car conversations. Even as they get older, it's time we know the phone isn't ringing, and no one is knocking at the where to be in 5 minutes except on the road, and it's great. I even love the short carpool conversations (and overhearing them when friends are with us).

Debra Ann Elliott said...

Thanks for stopping by. I'm right there now. My writing sometimes takes a backseat to family, but it's worth it.

WhisperingWriter said...

Car drives can be pleasant. Unless my kids are fighting..:/

Thank you for your comments about my query letter and my novel!

ArtsyNina said...

And this is exactly why I NEVER want a video player in the car. It's wonderful to daydream and talk :)

Grumpy Grateful Mom said...

I loved this post! What a perfect time for you and your kids. It's amazing to me just what kids can come up with, even at a young age.

Thanks for sharing Sandra!

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