When a 6-year old calls out to you, “Let’s play Candyland!” how do you respond?
Perhaps the most important part of my job these days is saying, “Ok, Candyland, not Uno?” and taking off the gardening gloves or putting down whatever I was in the middle of, and playing Candyland.
Because it isn’t about Candyland. It isn’t ever about Candyland. It’s about relationship. It’s about whether the Princess Frostine is creepy or beautiful, or if the licorice guy is cool, or whether someone just cheated. It’s about who wins and how many times they win and letting the other person win sometimes. How many times we play before moving on, and what will moving on look like.
Montessori is teaching method pioneered by Maria Montessori who had some rather spot on ideas about helping kids live and learn. In montessori schools, students do activities called “practical life” which in their repetition help with fine motor coordination and focusing. They also have a bit of zen to them.
Sort of like Mr. Rogers and his taking off his jacket, hanging it up, putting on his sweater and slippers every time he came home.
Or like the teacher in the Karate Kid who taught the Ralph Macchio martial arts using his “wax on-wax off” method. Regular activity that becomes something more: a way to learn, relax, stop and think or let go.
Brother Lawrence, the kitchen saint also wrote about it in Practicing the Presence of God: it is sweeping, peeling carrots, washing dishes in a sink of warm soapy water – mundane tasks that make space for something more. Whether it is learning martial arts, transitioning/beginning or ending, or learning how to work the hands – mundane tasks open doors.
Sometimes playing Candyland feels a little bit like that: almost a non-activity that is a medium to interact with a child. Candyland is just tool to build relationship. Are you up for it?
“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” — C.S. Lewis
My youngest is beautiful, full of fire and changing every minute deciding whether today is the worst day ever or the best day ever. Her mood rollercoaster can be exhausting. She assails with sassy talk, words like “unfair” and “boring” and then hands me a love letter.
My oldest declares that “no one will ruin her day today!” and I kiss her forehead and think or maybe say out loud, “Oh thank God,”
The youngest wants to paint nails so we get all the things out. We may talk, we may not. The oldest sits down and says, “Can I sit with you?” Of course. “I don’t like painting my nails,” I don’t either, I think, but it doesn’t matter, because it isn’t about nails. It’s about relationship.
The youngest helps me pull weeds and we learn about which ones are weeds. She tugs and pulls the tops off and the roots remain in the dirt to flower again very soon, but I couldn’t care less. Because it isn’t about the weeds, it’s about relationship.
I suppose that is one of the ways that parenthood changes a person.