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.