Homeschooled by My Children
The following brief essay was written several years ago when my daughter was only four years old.
I’ve been travelling a great deal lately and feeling the pangs of conscience for these protracted absences from my family. Yesterday, to compensate for the fact that I am once again about to leave my children to fulfill my teaching and speaking commitments, I declared the day a “playing day”, which my four-year-old usually associates with the weekends. Since I will be leaving for the airport at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow morning (ouch!), thereby confiscating the weekend’s play from my blameless child, I thought that the least I could do was devote a day of undivided attention to her. Yesterday was therefore magically transformed from a “working day” into a “playing day”, changing “papa” from an uninteresting man typing on his computer in his office to a veritable prince of playfulness. Better still, this playing day was going to involve a daytrip to the nearby children’s museum. It was as though Christmas had come early. How much joy adults can give to children with relatively little effort or sacrifice …
Arriving at the museum, we made a beeline for a replica grocery store where we pretended to shop for groceries in a replica store, purchasing plastic replicas of a host of fruit and vegetables. I was impressed at how little junk food our daughter selected from the shelves. My wife is clearly doing a good job in sheltering her from this seductive poison. As the day unfolded, we visited a pretend farm where we milked a pretend cow, rode a pretend horse, fed a couple of pretend pigs and planted pretend carrots. We pitted our wits against a relatively witless robot, and I rested while my daughter clambered up a child-safe skyscraper. We lunched in the museum’s cafeteria and then returned with gusto to the fray, or play. We splashed around in water and made a racket in what can only be termed a percussion room. We made model cars and raced them. We waved ribbons around in a wind tunnel. We ventured into the stomach of a giant to see how he and we digest our food. Thankfully our journey to the pits of the giant’s belly did not proceed via his mouth, nor was it preceded by a triumphant cry about smelling the blood of an Englishman, which was a great relief as I’m sure I was the only Englishman in the place. Instead we walked into the midst of the giant’s digestive tract as part of an educational adventure.
We did much more before returning home, and I realized as we left this wonderland that it was more real than the nonsense world in which we are all doomed to live, a world full of false philosophies and false ideologies rooted in a woeful misunderstanding of Man and the world in which he lives. I also realized that the real world of parenthood and the real world of childhood transcend such nonsense. They existed before the false philosophies and ideologies and would exist long after such nonsense had passed away (to be replaced no doubt by different nonsense).
As we drove home, I reconsidered my earlier thought about the ability of parents to give their children joy with relatively little effort. It was true but was less true perhaps than the ease with which children give joy to their parents.
Oh what a wonderful world we have been given! Oh what blessings are bestowed upon us, if we but open our hearts to them! Deo gratias!
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