Glow, little glow worm

Firefly

At the end of each school year, the country school I attended would hold an evening picnic. There would be a pick-up ball game, adults and students playing together, followed by a weiner roast and potluck supper. As daylight faded, children entertained themselves by catching fireflies. Some with forethought had brought along glass jars in which to hold the insects. Others held the fireflies captive between two hands, spreading fingers slightly to watch the lights inside.

My memories of those nights are hazy. I remember few details. Except for the fireflies. I never forget the fireflies.

“Fireflies in the Garden By Robert Frost 1874–1963

Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,

And here on earth come emulating flies,

That though they never equal stars in size,

(And they were never really stars at heart)

Achieve at times a very star-like start.

Only, of course, they can’t sustain the part.”

Robert Frost, The Poetry of Robert Frost

 

Warm skies, the stars are listening.

Country night sings her song.

Fireflies light the distance.

Making me want to sing along.

– Ruthie Foster

A BEETLE BY ANY OTHER NAME

We call them fire flies or lightning bugs. We call their larvae glow worms.

Shine little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer;

Shine little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer

But they are not flies. They are not bugs. And they are not worms.

They are beetles. And they are bioluminescent throughout every cycle of their lives. Even their eggs glow.

They are the world’s most efficient light producers. They produce cold light, too, which is lucky for them. If their flickering produced as much heat as it does light, they would likely be burned to a crisp.

Their light is their language; it is how they talk to others of their species.

So many fascinating scientific facts to be learned if you stay outside to watch the fireflies.

“Magic is seeing wonder in nature’s every little thing, seeing how wonderful the fireflies are and how magical are the dragonflies.”

― Ama H. Vanniarachchy

What’s more, we’re having fun doing it.

I wish I was a glow worm,

A glow worm’s never glum.

“cos how can you be grumpy

When the sun shines out your bum.

– author unknown

Magic and memories. Fascinating facts and fun. All in the great outdoors.

The recipe for a perfect summer.

-30-

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What I Heard at the Fathering Conference

People who work in parent-child programming are accustomed to attending conferences where women outnumber men by a significant margin.

It is a novel – and enlightening– experience to attend a conference where there are as many male participants as there are female, and where the majority of the presenters are male.

The national Fathering Conference in Winnipeg March 1 and 2 was just such an event.

Sponsored by Dad Central Canada, the one and a half day event was entitled “Side by Side: Strategies for Working with Vulnerable Fathers”.

Attending any conference always involves choices – ‘which breakout sessions do I attend?’ – and one person’s notes may not look anything like another’s as a result. When I reviewed my notes after the conference, I found these nuggets.

Father involvement:

  • Is greater in the upper and middle classes
  • Affects child development
  • Is affected by vulnerability and marginalization

Words I Will Not Forget

“I have not failed; I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

What makes a father vulnerable:

  • Mental illness
  • Incarceration
  • Military career
  • Newcomer status
  • Domestic violence
  • Aboriginal background
  • Youth
  • Non-residential
  • Racialized
  • Special needs

(I think I would add socio-economic status to the list. Poverty equals vulnerability in many cases and this supports the earlier statement that father involvement is greater in the upper and middle classes.)

Five strength-based assumptions:

  • Fathers desire to have regular interaction with their kids.
  • Fathers have an innate ability to nurture and care for their children
  • Fathers focus on success in all areas of their children’s lives
  • Fathers have important and unique gifts to bring to families
  • When we strengthen fathers, we strengthen kids.

Words I Will Not Forget

Adolescence is a stage, not an age.

What do dads want in a dad’s group? (as selected by dads in Ontario’s Niagara region).

  • Peer to peer
  • Evening
  • Facilitator with lived experience
  • Accessible location
  • Topics of interest
  • Food
  • child care
  • “not like school”
  • Group of dads

Words I Will Not Forget

Every time you say the words “at risk”, it is potentially prejudicial.

For further information and resources you can go to www.dadcentral.ca

The Scandinavian Village

scandinavian-prams

Icelandic babies are left outside to nap in freezing temperatures. It is not uncommon to see a pram outside a coffee shop parents grabbing a cup while the baby sleeps. Or to see one outside of a home as many Icelandic babies nap outside at least once a day, no matter the season.

Source: http://icelandmonitor.mbl.is/news/news/2017/01/29/20_strange_and_awesome_facts_about_iceland/bout_iceland/

These are not identified as pictures from Iceland; they are, however, identified as pictures from a Scandinavian country.  In all Scandinavian countries, parents let their babies nap outside even in winter. They also leave prams untended outside restaurants and stores while they drink their coffee and do their shopping.

The Finnish Ministry of Labour specifically recommends outdoor naps for infants:

“Irrespective of the season, many children have their evening naps outside in prams.

Many babies sleep better outdoors in the fresh air than in the bedroom. Sleeping outdoors is not dangerous for a baby. One may gradually start going outdoors when the baby is two weeks old. “

Nowadays most day-care centres in Sweden put children outside to rest. It’s common to see rows of prams lined up in the snow at naptime, with youngsters fast asleep inside.

The theory behind outdoor napping is that children exposed to fresh air, whether in summer or winter, are less likely to catch coughs and colds – and that spending a whole day in one room with 30 other children does them no good at all.

Many parents also believe their children sleep better and for longer in the open.

While the weather may be cold, however, it is important that the children have wool closest to their bodies, warm clothes and a warm sleeping bag.

As the Swedes say, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.”

Another saying sums up what Swedes are likely to think when toddlers in other countries are kept indoors in sub-zero temperatures: “A little fresh air never hurt anyone.” It’s a saying that many Canadian parents and grandparents have been heard to say, as well.

Those who grew up with Dr. Spock as their parenting guide remember his instructions to let children sleep with an open window in their bedrooms, regardless of the season. Somewhere along the line our society decided that the dangers of cold air outweigh its benefits, although as awareness of something called nature deficit disorder is becoming more widespread, we are beginning to think more about the importance of the outdoors.

But the fresh air issue is only part of it, of course. There is an element of fear involved as well. What if someone abducted your child while he was alone outside? What if the child were in distress and we were not there to fix the problem?

Child abduction is not something that Scandinavian parents worry too much about. In Denmark, for example, kidnappings are exceedingly rare. Reports suggest that there have been three in the last 30 years (and two of those were by would-be thieves who just wanted to steal a bike, not a bike and a baby).

Child abduction is perhaps not a significantly high risk in Canada either, although the fear of it is significant. So is the fear that something bad might happen if we take our eyes away for too long.

It’s not as if Scandinavian parents don’t make use of modern devices such as high-tech monitors attached to strollers; they do. And they’re never that far away to begin with. They’re usually sitting by a restaurant window where they can easily see their pram. And if they don’t hear or see what is happening with their child, passersby will nicely let them know.

Not so in other parts of the world where leaving a child outside and alone is enough to bring law enforcement to your door. In one well-publicized case from 1997 (20 years ago now), authorities turned a child over to foster care and arrested the parents — a Danish-American couple, it so happens — after they enjoyed a snack in a New York eatery while the baby lazed in her stroller outside.

In Scandinavia, it seems, people are still willing to help people out, not judge and/or convict them for their parenting habits. They seem to be residents in the village that raises the child and wouldn’t we all like to live in a village like that?

What do you need for Christmas, Mom?

Both my children have asked me that question recently.

Seems like it was only yesterday that I was mailing letters to the North Pole for them. Their Dad and I always knew what they wanted for Christmas. They told us over and over again.

But now they are adults, although always our children, and they are the ones asking the question.

It’s not that easy a question to answer.

There are not so many things I ‘need’ these days, you see, but I haven’t stopped ‘wanting’ yet.

The older I get, the more I find that the things I want the most can’t be wrapped in shiny paper. They are huge, but have no shape that would fit neatly inside a box or bag.

Some of them can’t be purchased at all. They are priceless, but have no price tag.

Some of them are not even possible, but that doesn’t stop the wanting.

My Christmas List

I want a calendar to mark the special days and remind myself that each day can be special.

I want a journal to hold time in one place for memory’s sake.

I want a snowflake to remind me of the awe and excitement that was winter in childhood.

I want a candle to symbolize the season, but also to remind me of candles lit within the year: on birthday cakes, for example, or spooky Hallowe’en nights.

I want the smell of that candle burning.

I want the colours of the seasons, wrapped in a bow.

I want the sound of your voices on the phone, saying that you arrived safely and all is well.

I want yesterday back for just the length of the Christmas season. I want the presence of family and friends who cannot now be with us except in memory. I want the excitement of Christmas morning with young children.

I want the sound of a bell. Just the sound.

I want kindness and warm hugs. I want great big bellyfuls of laughter.

I want peace on earth.

I want you home for Christmas. But if you can’t be here, I want you safe wherever you are.

I want the words to tell you just how much you mean to your Dad and me.

Love,

Mom

P.S. What do YOU need for Christmas?

P.P.S. I hope your list is easier than mine.

 

What’s in a Village?

Lots of children.

So says Dr. Peter Gray, a research professor at Boston College and the author of an article in Psychology Today entitled “The Culture of Childhood: We’ve Almost Destroyed It.”

“Children learn the most valuable lessons from other children, away from adults,” Gray says.

In fact, he turns the much-used African proverb around to suggest that the village raises the child because of the presence of many children within its boundaries. He quotes J.R. Harris (1998):

The reason it takes a village is not because it requires a quorum of adults to nudge erring youngsters back onto the paths of righteousness. It takes a village because in a village there are always enough kids to form a play group.

Gray says that children are biologically designed to pay attention to the other children in their lives, to try to fit in with them, to be able to do what they to, to know what they know.

Throughout most of human history, that’s how children become educated and that’s still largely how children become educated today, despite our misguided attempts to stop it and turn the educating job over to adults.

There are many lessons, he says, that children learn or can learn from other children that they cannot or are not likely to learn from adults.

  1. Authentic communication

For example:  an adult points to a red ball and asks “What color is that?” Gray argues that this is not an honest question, since the adult knows the answer. It is not really a question at all; it is a test.  A child would never ask such a question, nor would a child give false praise to another child, the way that adults praise a child’s artwork, for example.

2. Independence and courage

According to Gray, the ultimate goal of childhood is to move away from dependence on parents and establish oneself as one’s own person. Part of gaining independence is gaining courage to face the challenges and deal with the emergencies that are part of every day life. Children must learn to manage fear.

3. Creating and understanding the purpose and modifiability of rules.

Adults follow the rules when they play a game. Children make up their own. When playing with other children, they feel free to challenge ideas about the rules. They learn to negotiate. They learn that rules are not ‘fixed in heaven’, but made by humans to make the game more fair.

This is an important lesson, Gray says. It is a cornerstone of democracy.

4. Practicing and building on the skills and values of adult culture

Children incorporate into their play many of the skills and values that they observe among adults. That is way farmers’ children play at farming, for example.

5. Getting along with others as equals

The adult-child relationship is not equal. The adult has all the power. By playing with other children, children learn how to get along with peers: how to pay attention to the needs of others, how to share, how to negotiate, how to assert their own needs and desires.

And here’s something else that Gray turns inside out and asks us to re-think. We bemoan the ‘screen time’ that our children have; we want to ban or limit that time. But Gray says that children are using the Internet to connect because adults have prevented them from getting together anywhere else. They have creatively found a way to do what they have always done.

If we did ban or limit screen time, Gray says, while still banning children from public spaces without adult supervision, we would finally succeed in destroying the culture of childhood.

We would prevent children from educating themselves in the ways they always have, and we would see the rise of a generation of adults who don’t know how to be adults because they never had a chance to practice it.

Gray’s entire article can be found at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201610/the-culture-childhood-we-ve-almost-destroyed-it.

Gardeners and Carpenters

An interview with psychologist and author Alison Gopnik in the August 22 issue of Macleans magazine is worth the read.

Alison Gopnik is a professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley.

She is an internationally recognized leader in the study of children’s learning and development and was the first to argue that children’s minds could help us understand deep philosophical questions. She was one of the founders of the study of “theory of mind”, illuminating how children come to understand the minds of others, and she formulated the “theory theory”, the idea that children learn in the same way that scientists do. In other words, they formulate a theory and then test it to see if it works.

Caring deeply about our children is part of what makes us human. Yet the thing we call “parenting” is a surprisingly new invention. In the past thirty years, the concept of parenting and the multibillion-dollar industry surrounding it have transformed child care into obsessive, controlling, goal-oriented labor intended to create a particular kind of child and thereby a particular kind of adult. In The Gardener and the Carpenter, the pioneering developmental psychologist and philosopher Alison Gopnik argues that the familiar twenty-first-century picture of parents and children is profoundly wrong – it’s not just based on bad science, it’s also bad for kids and parents.

Drawing on the study of human evolution and on her own cutting-edge scientific research into how children learn, Gopnik shows that although caring for children is immensely important, the goal shouldn’t be to shape them so they turn out a certain way. Children are designed to be messy and unpredictable, playful and imaginative, and very different both from their parents and from one another. The variability and flexibility of childhood allow them to innovate, create, and survive in an unpredictable world. “Parenting” won’t make children learn – rather, caring parents let children learn by creating a secure, loving environment.

– from the front jacket flap, “The Gardener and the Carpenter”, Alison Gopnik 2016

Gopnik uses the carpenter as a metaphor for the 21st century parent. The carpenter knows from the outset what he wants to create; he has a plan. Using the tools at his disposal, he whittles and joins and sometimes hammers. The end product is his. If there are faults with it, they lie in his execution of the work.

The gardener, on the other hand, plants the seed and has no idea what will grow. But he gives the seed the best chance he can. He waters as necessary. He culls the weeds that come up around the plant. He keeps an eye out for pests. His job is to watch over the plant as it grows, but he has little control over what the adult plant will look like. It may look nothing like the picture on the seed package.

A carpenter actively participate in the creation of his project. When it is done, he gets to keep it. A gardener on the other hand oversees the process, but possession is temporary.

A person could play with the analogy for a very long time, finding much to think about.

 The concept of parenting as a verb is interesting and relatively new. As Gobnik says in her interview in Macleans, we don’t ‘child’ our parents or ‘wife’ our husbands or ‘husband’ our wives. So why do we ‘parent’ our children?

If you would like to learn more about Gopnik’s theory, read the Maclean’s article. Better yet, read the book.

When it’s summertime…

“Green was the silence, wet was the light,
the month of June trembled like a butterfly.”
Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets

There was nothing like a Saturday – unless it was the Saturday leading up to the last week of school and into summer vacation. That of course was all the Saturdays of your life rolled into one big shiny ball.”
Nora Roberts

There is indeed nothing quite as full of promise as the month of June. It is the month of lady slippers, cowslips, tiger lilies and wild roses. It is the month of dragon flies, fireflies and croaking frogs. It is the month of end-of-year parties, field trips and school’s end. It is the countdown to summer solstice.

Then followed that beautiful season… Summer….
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees.”  

-Valerie Andrews, A Passion for this Earth

Feel the grass beneath your feet.

Lie under a tree and watch the leaves.

Lie on your stomach and watch the ants march by.

Collect sticks and build a house for the fairies.

Listen to the wind.

Dig for worms.

Grow some vegetables in a pot.

Go on a nature hunt.

Head for the park.

Collect shells at the beach.

Pick berries. Eat berries.

Make a nature bracelet by wrapping duct tape around your wrist, sticky side up. Go for a walk and put things you see on your bracelet – small sticks, leaves, flowers, pebbles.

“A dark night, lightened up by thousands of glowing fireflies… It’s magical…”
Ama H. Vanniarachchy

Catch fireflies in a jar – and then let them go.

Singing in the rain,

I’m singing in the rain.

What a beautiful feeling,

I’m happy again!

Play in a puddle.

Catch the rain on your tongue.

Put a bowl outside and guess how much water there will be in the bowl when the rain is done.

The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold, wet day.”
Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

Bake cookies and make ice cream sandwiches.

Build a fort in the living room out of a big cardboard box.

Eat your ice cream sandwiches inside your fort.

Rainbow 1984

My heart leaps up when I behold

A rainbow in the sky.

So was it when my life began;

So is it now I am a man.

William Wordsworth

Count the colours in a rainbow. Draw your own using whatever colours you like.

One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by. ~Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

Read outside. Read inside. Go to a library.

Make a book about the animals you have seen on your outdoor trips. A is for ant. B is for bird or bee or BEAR! C is for caterpillar or cow. D is for duck or deer.

And maybe when September comes, you will be able to say:

“All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams

What a wonderful wish for parents and children everywhere.