Pink Bunny Catches Surf in San Diego

One of the delightful pastimes I enjoy with Coco-Meister (age 5) and her sister, Bea (age 7) is painting our imaginations with the antics of Bun-Bun, formally Pink-Bunny, and Carrots, Bun-Bun's partner in fun. Both of them are known to have pizza parties with the other stuffed animals between the time we leave for a walk to the market and back.

Today, we enjoyed Bun-Bun catching a surf as we drove along the beautiful coast from Encinitas to La Jolla. Bun-Bun was on a really cool surfboard and shouted, "Cowabunga!" as most bunnies would in all the excitement and ocean mist swirling about on a long wave.

Though Bun-Bun is an expert surfer, is able to host awesome pizza parties for guests of no less than thirty and has all the skills needed for midnight runs out for ice cream when we're all asleep, at times she has to remain incognito if other new seven-year old kids are around, since according to Bea, "They would make fun of me, if they knew I love Pink Bunny!"

Of course, the impulse for peer acceptance overrides any effort to reassure Bea other seven-year old kids have their own loves that are deeply important. So as any Papa would do, I make accommodations and have a nice place for Bun-Bun to sit and read in my blue backpack until all is clear.

I very much enjoy all the little adventures that Bun-Bun and Carrots get into; I particularly like hearing about their mischief before they are off to sleep or at the dinner table.

Research reports what parents know and that is how important it is to encourage and be apart of our children's imaginary lives. One study indicates, "[C]areful attention to children's imaginative endeavors...will empower children to develop an invaluable tool that can be a contributing part of their repertoire for understanding and contributing to their worlds" (Eckhoff, 2008, p. 185).

Maybe what is needed is parents getting together to throw a party for stuffed animals. Sorry, I mean our little family members at the next opportunity? That could be a lot of fun, a bunch of parents with their kids and all their friends who do extraordinary things.

Next time you are traveling along the coast, look out into the water, smile and wave to Bun-Bun. She'll enjoy seeing you and you just may get a "Cowabunga!" to remember.

"Every child is born blessed with a vivid imagination. But just as a muscle grows flabby with disuse, so the bright imagination of a child pales in later years if he ceases to exercise it." - Walt Disney

Eckhoff, A., et. al., Understanding Imaginative Thinking During Childhood: Sociocultural Conceptions of Creativity and Imaginative Thought. Early Childhood Education Journal v. 36 no. 2 (October 2008) p. 179-85

A Parent's Anguish

The look in this mother's eyes escalated toward fear. Every fiber of the father's presence went in to protection mode, as he fired like a bullet to his car. Both were in near frantic disbelief their son was missing.

I didn't expect my visit to the store on Saturday would require more time and effort than anticipated. Such is daily life, we go about doing our normal routine and then we are confronted with an unforeseen event. Do we get involved? Or defer to the conditioned belief, "Someone else will help..."

I walked up to the store with package in hand to return an item. My goal quickly changed from thinking about how to tell the clerk, "I don't have my receipt and want an exchange", to thinking about assessing what was happening within a sparse gathering of customers, and what might need to be done, if anything.

Something wasn't right according to the internal signals I was picking up with each step toward the store's entrance (Gavin de Becker, expert in evaluating threats and author of Protecting the Gift, I now recall wrote about our primal intuition that is hardwired for the benefit of our children; it is a sense you do not want to ignore, especially if you are a single parent). Customers were milling about, checking with each other as people do, sharing conflicting information, and passing to each other what they thought was occurring. In the background of their chatter, unfolding before their eyes, a mother was darting this way and that, back into the store and out into the parking lot again, calling out for her son, with each call growing louder and filling with panic. I heard the father from within the store yelling for his son to "Come here! Now!", apparently thinking his son might still be in the store and would appear immediately to his forceful command. I'm not sure when I did, but I checked for my cell and returned quickly to the car to retrieve it, knowing the police would need to be called if no one had done so.

A store attendant responded, "We are doing everything to help her...We have staff posted at every entrance..." to my question, "Is anyone helping her find her child?" Still, I could see the parents were in a panic and the father bolted to his car and headed home to find his son. Information was still being shared by customers in a flurry without clear indication as to what actually transpired. I heard in the murmur from one voice, "He was running around the store a little while ago..." From another, "Maybe he went to the car?" From yet another, "Maybe he's in the restroom?" And from yet another and no more reassuring or hopeful, questioning, "Could he be at home?" Customers' faces were empty and without certainty.

As each second ticked away, I could see the mother begin to emotionally crumble; her other son about age nine stood by obviously feeling helpless and fielding questions from a few bystanders. I approached and invited the mother to sit down on the floor and she fell to her knees and melted into tears, fumbling with her cell and concurrently agreeing to call the police.

The call was placed and the police were informed of a missing child and given preliminary information while the mother continued to cry and leave a sobbing voice-mail for her son who might be at home, telling him, "If you are there, stay there! Call me!!"

On the phone, the dispatcher asked if she could talk directly to the mother and she was handed the phone and now had something to do; she could now take action instead of being helpless. Her last words to me and another bystander, father of two as well, was "Thank you!" with eyes reddened and tears streaming down her face, visibly shaken by the event. She was secure now, knowing something would be done, even if the outcome was still unknown, as she went with a police officer, who arrived in about seven minutes, outside the store to talk about what happened.

While the timeline is unclear about how events unfolded, the important thing for any parent, is to know he was found safe at home.
Many of us have been there, feeling that sense of dread when for a moment, or painfully longer for some, we have lost sight of our most precious gift. At those times, we must all support one another and assist when and if we can.

Getting from Second Grade to College via the Laundry Room

"I'm only going to the second grade!", was "Bea's" reply. I can hear my plan to, "Teach you how to do laundry, so you will know how when you go to college", wasn't as wonderfully embraced as I had hoped. But, I don't blame her. Who loves laundry? The initial objections lasted for about two minutes; stretching beyond one's limits (child or adult) is usually met with a few objections and resistance, until orientation, teaching and reinforcing occurs. And, since my grandmother started me at about the same age, I was not about to let this moment pass.

There were many age appropriate lessons here to be had, more than anticipated. There was sorting colors from whites; learning how to follow verbal instructions; working as a team to carry three full laundry bags from Point A to Point B; opportunities for the little ones to resolve conflict between themselves and working together to fill Life's Good washing machines, that now come complete with a "Super Wash" function, a necessity for any parent. My youngest, "Coco-Meister" (age 4) and oldest, "Bea" (age 7), each had their tasks.

Coco-Meister did quite well with following instructions and working as a team. She may be smaller than Bea, but she carries her own weight and then some. She especially likes pushing buttons and proclaiming, "I can do it by myself!" Bea only needed a little support on reading the menu of choices on the washers and found herself feeling a sense of pride when she was later able to give her sister some instruction. For Bea, there was the added benefit of working with money (in debit card form) and in telling and anticipating the progress of time. Both, as usual loved the round of "High Fives" (see Wikipedia for origins). And, the age appropriate lessons for me? I get to keep working on increasing my patience and learning how to translate adult-talk to kid-talk. In the end, spending time together interacting in the day-to-day adventure of living is second to none, in learning what my girls are good in, and where they and I need improvement.

As someone once said, children rise to the level of expectation (John Morefield, Recreating Schools for All Children. Johns Hopkins University School of Education) and I think the same might be said for parents, as I find myself challenged to think of creative ways to incorporate what they learn in school into our practical lives with the world as our classroom.

So here we are waiting for our wash to be done. I'm with my brand spanking new Toshiba NB505 netbook (in my favorite color of blue and purchased on sale at Best Buy) with the known universe at my fingertips, delivered via Verizon Wireless to a laundry room in sunny San Diego and they are sitting close by, enjoying the greatest invention for any kid (and parent), a box of Crayola Crayons and their favorite coloring books.
Personal thought: "Yes, Bea, you are only going into the second grade, but I bet college will be here before both you and I expect it. So, for the time being, dad is enjoying the moment, taking care of our daily needs, and enjoying you and your sister loving the new things you are learning and what will not last forever, your enjoyment of Crayola Crayons."

Update: At the end of the wash cycle, we had a lot of fun setting up a line of delivering laundry from washer to dryer. Later, the girls got experience in folding their own clothes (Yes, a clothes fight did breakout momentarily - But, it was fun)! By the end of this class, I got to hear, in typical kid fashion, "My arms are falling off!" and "Wow, this is so much work!" If nothing else, they are learning life takes some effort and "work" leads to pleasant experiences, as in the enjoyment of an evening meal and a relaxing stroll to the local market under a beautiful night sky.

Work and play...My kind of day!