Thursday, November 02, 2006

10 Things Every Child Should Experience

Ten Things From My Childhood That All Children Should Experience

1. Alone time. I didn't have any siblings close to my age, so I was on my own for entertainment a lot. I've been having internal conversations in my head for a long time. If I was upset or mad or anxious about something, I'd talk to myself about it silently. Difficult conversations with my mother. Arguments with friends. It made me develop a knack for expressing myself verbally. Wouldn't you know it? I majored in communications in college.

2. Inexpensive or common object toys. I grew up po' until I was about eleven. All of my toys were hand-me-downs, except a Cabbage Patch doll that I cherished. Instead of the fancy stuff, I'd play with kitchen utensils and turn them into houses and furniture and people and trees and cars and ... you get my drift. Especially fun was my parents' chess game. Those little figures became my classroom, where the Queen was the teacher, my church, where my Queen was the minister, and my restaurant (guess who was the chef?).

3. Fresh air. We went to my grandmother's farm every other weekend in the UP of Michigan, about 2-4 hours away (depending on where we lived). I spent a lot of time playing in the yard, out in the fields, collecting wildflowers, chasing cows, laying on the ground and watching clouds. Priceless.

4. Travel. My father had to go on frequent business trips to look at floors. All over the country. My dad, my mom, my sister and I would pile into the big old van and set off down the highway at o'dark thirty. I saw a lot of America that way, even if a lot of it was rest areas and anything I could glimpse from the interstate. I loved it. When I was 13 (and we had more money) my mom and I went to Europe for a few weeks to visit my brother who was stationed there. That was also a very special experience that I'll never forget.

5. Book freedom. I was always a nerdy kid. Voracious reading runs in my family. I was never content to just read what my classmates were reading. I read through all the Baby Sitters Club books in six months. My mom let me pick out books of hers to read. So, when I was ten, I read Rosamunde Pilcher's The Shell Seekers. When I was nine, I started Janette Oke's Love Comes Softly series. I loved Christian historical romances. It made me a rather dreamy pre-pubescent girl, but looking back I feel proud that I had other interests besides Nancy Drew and Little House on the Prairie (read all of those too anyway).

6. Art dabbling. I was home-schooled for four years in grade school. My mom would come up with different activities and classes to supplement what I could have been doing in school. One winter, I took a beginner's watercolor class with a bunch of adults at the YWCA. Another spring, I took a calligraphy class. Later on, I'd go through tons of art supplies, experimenting with different mediums. I started writing poetry, and coloring and drawing and painting seemed to be an extension of that. I loved doing landscapes and practicing shadows and perspective. By the time I got to high school and could take an actual art class with peers, I was pretty good at lots of different art areas. I had the freedom as a child to play with art and take it wherever I wanted to.

7. Milk a cow. Here in Central Wisconsin, we're in farm country. Lots and lots of cows. As far as the eye can see. We like cheese. As a child, I had a friend whose family still ran a farm. I loved to go over there on the weekends and help. I learned how to milk a cow by hand when I was seven. By 8, I could work those funky milking machine cups. It's a badge of pride for me.

8. Feeding the ducks. At least once a summer, my mom would take me to the park with a bag of stale bread. We'd feed the duckies along the shore. I loved it. So peaceful and fun. Such entertaining little critters. I did it by myself a few times in college as well.

9. Plant a garden. When I was seven, we moved to a farmhouse just outside of town. It was a huge yard with a huge area in the backyard to plant a garden. I loved planning out the garden with my mother and choosing seed packets at the hardware store. I loved the flowers of course, but vegetables were my favorite. I thought it was the neatest thing to turn a little seed into a carrot.

10. Love a pet. I had kitties when we lived in that farmhouse. Since my dad was allergic, they were outside cats who were based out of a shed attached to our garage. I loved naming them, petting them, cuddling them, playing with them. I also learned about what it was like to lose something you love, and about the practicalities that come with death.