Let’s hope the children’s answer is that they want security. They want to know they are loved; they want to know they can count on us; they want our time and attention.
How many of us have heard the children’s cries of “Look at me! Look at me!” as they jump rope or spin a top, or demonstrate that the yo-yo is actually doing what the packaging says it should be able to do.
And how many of us have been too preoccupied with washing dishes or catching a television movie to pay our children attention? Think about the looks on their faces as they realize they are not high on our list of priorities when they want accolades for something they have just mastered, something that is important to them.
What will they remember when they grow up and have children of their own? Will they know how to parent, how to create positive memories.
Please indulge me and allow me to describe the games of my childhood and make a few suggestions.
Growing up on the Cumberland River as a coal miner’s daughter meant playing tag after dark, catching lightning bugs, cupping a grasshopper in my hands and saying, “Chew tobacco. Chew tobacco. Spit, spit, spit.” It meant catching a June bug, tying a string to one of its legs and letting it buzz through the air with me at the controls. On occasion it meant being sent to Dobas’ to hurry home with ice cream cones for everyone with the cold ice cream running down my arms.
Hopscotch was a regular event, and we needed only a stick to make a pattern in the dirt. Summer was walking “up Cloverlick” to swim and occasionally crossing the river, hiking across the mountain ridge to Raven’s Rock where Mother told us stories of her own excursions to that place when she was in high school.
A car trip with Aunt Muriel Adams to Lynch after church on Sunday morning seemed like an adventure to another world with all its regulation homes and services, designed and built by the United States Steel Corporation.
We played marbles, checkers, pick-up sticks, jacks. My brother Bill and I swung on grapevines, climbed trees, looked for snakes around rocks and under the metal pieces that were once a part of the coal tipple. We caught crawdads and put salt on snails to see what would happen. We competed to see who could walk on the rails of the train tracks the longest without falling off.
Some suggestions: The Cumberland River is accessible to everyone in Harlan County. You don’t need fancy gear to fish. You need a pole that you and your child searched for in the woods or alongside the road so that it would be “just right” for his/her size and age. You buy fishing line and small fishing hooks. Then you dig worms and teach the child to bait a hook. As you fish, you explain the concept of “catch and release,” and that’s it. Talk quietly to your child as you sit on the riverbank or just sit there, saying nothing, enjoying each other’s company.
Go on the Internet and Google “Kentucky wild flowers.” Print off some copies and you and your child can become detectives in search of flowers. Pick a few blossoms and preserve them in the family Bible.
Teach your children to identify trees and constellations. Our mountains skies are perfect for star gazing with the naked eye. Inform yourself and then help your child see that great space above us that is filled with wonder. Learn some of the stories that go along with the groupings or make up your own. Encourage your child’s imagination by letting him/her make up stories.
Once when we were walking in the snow, I gave my son Quentin a scientific explanation of snowflakes. He looked up at me and said, “Mommy, I prefer to think that Old Mother Goose is shaking out her feather bed.”
Rocks are fascinating and because Kentucky was a hunting ground for Native American tribes, perhaps you can discover remnants of these earlier civilizations. Or become an archaeologist and dig in a trash pit from the 1950s on land in your area. Catalog the artifacts in a small notebook and try to find out about them on the web: toys, containers, and pieces of pottery, tools, fabric and what have you. Or even ask your elderly neighbors about those artifacts.
Catch tadpoles and keep them in a shallow bowl, feeding them gold fish food until their legs develop and their tails drop off. Yes, that’s how we get frogs.
Make a rope swing. Build a tree house or a platform in a tree.
Make your own ice cream or snow cream just using ice trays in your refrigerator. Bake cookies; make fried apple pies.
If this all sounds like too much work, just ask yourself, Is my child worth it?