homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Giving them more by giving them less?

Our youngest son is obsessed with the 1968 film adaptation of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He asks to watch the film daily, and has had more than a few days with two or more viewings. He has named one of his Matchbox cars "Chitty" (it's an old-timey open-top...close enough). He has renamed a large toy dump truck "Chitty" and runs around pushing it.

He builds entire fleets of elaborate (and wonderfully symmetrical) "Chitty cars" out of the toddler-sized Lego blocks.

And he has his "spinning sticks", which started as two scrap sections of dowel rod but have also manifested as small branches, pencils, or whatever is on hand. The idea there is that he is Chitty, as represented by his propellers.

When my husband found an online listing for a replica model of the car, he sent me the URL. My first thought, as was his, was...OMG THIS IS SO INCREDIBLY COOL!! I sent a quick reply indicating my desire to purchase this for our son's upcoming third birthday.

Then I started thinking.

Yes, the toy is really cool. Yes, as parents we love the thought of fulfilling their dearest fantasies and love having the ability to do so. But if they have already successfully (and contentedly) filled that need with creativity and imagination, do they really *need* the actual item? What's more, would giving them the actual item actually backfire and stifle said creativity and imagination?

I went through this same question at Christmas time, when this same child was intensely interested in Wall*E. I decided to not get him a licensed Wall*E action figure because he had already reassigned another toy for that purpose. It was a boxy Tonka construction vehicle that does actually look remarkably similar to the little trash compacting robot. (At least, the triangular wheel arrangement warrants some comparison!)
He was perfectly happy with HIS Wall*E. And what's more, that toy had been a gift to reflect his ongoing fascination with construction equipment and (perhaps because of its unrealistic shape and proportions) was never played with for that purpose. He continued to use older, broken diggers and wouldn't touch this thing. Until he realized that it was Wall*E. And so, it is.

While my mind did the back-and-forth on the Chitty issue, my husband emailed a reply...and said exactly what I had been thinking.
If we do then his imagination for all the legos he builds and his dump truck may change and he won't call all his toys Chitty. So I'm torn.

Isn't it reassuring when parents find that they're actually (gasp!) on the same page? :)

At this point, I'm looking for a Chitty Chitty logo on a T-shirt, assuming I can find one small enough. (He's a size 3-4, the smallest I've found is a if you know of one, please let me know!!) I have ordered a vintage children's book targeted toward his age level as well. (He asked me a few weeks ago to read him the book, and he was a real trouper for a handful of pages but it's just not time for chapter books yet!)

I would feel/act differently if he hadn't designated a surrogate. His 5 year old brother has received a number of toys to reflect his intense interests...from sharks to bats and beyond. But even he has shown a preference for the "found" and "made" rather than the purchased. A recent example was a light-up, telescoping light saber that we gave him for his birthday. He loves sword-play with his 17 year old cousin (who is a rather good sport about such things), and this cousin is way cool because of the collection of toy swords at his house. So I bought the really cool sword. And it lies broken at the bottom of the toy box, and our son happily fights the neighbor boy with fallen branches.

So, while I am not categorically opposed to materialism and can totally appreciate a cool toy, if there is a choice to be made I will go with imagination more often than not.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Big Boys on Ice

I believe I posted pictures of Theo's first ice skating adventure a while back. Cayden was not included that day. While *everyone else* went skating, he went to Grandma's. He has never quite forgiven me for that, and still throws a panicked tantrum when he is close to Grandma's car, as I assume he's afraid we're going to give him the slip again. Poor kid.

In our absence, Grandma told him that he would get to go, too...when he was "a big boy". Several weeks later I was praising him for some accomplishment and remarked about what a big boy he was. And he joyfully exclaimed, "YAY! Now I can go skating!"

This kid is seriously breaking my heart.

So when a friend offered some tickets to go ice skating last week, we happily accepted.

Here is Theo...only his fourth time on the ice and he is already way too cool and kept his hands in his pockets the whole time. He acted very worldly and bored. LOL

Here is Cayden, learning how to stand/balance on the rubber matting. He was SO thrilled.

And finally, an action shot.

Poor kid...I didn't realize how much his jacket pulled up. I'd be amazed if he had any visibility at all. But MAN was he happy. He kept shouting, "Faster! Go faster!" When I took the kids off the ice for a little break, all it took was one turn of Mom's head and he had raced up the ramp and stepped back onto the ice himself. Of course he fell right on his backside! But my friend's three daughters were right there to offer a hand and he eagerly accepted and let them escort him around a bit too.

It was a GOOD day.

In true Spring-in-Pennsylvania fashion, two days later we were playing outside in T-shirts. Gotta love the random weather.

Another neat thing to note from the day... The rink that we visited is in downtown Pittsburgh. To save hassle, gas, and parking fees, we took the trolley. BIG fun for everyone. I sat the kids by the window and narrated much of the trip, answering their questions and pointing out neat landmarks or rail equipment. Just as we approached the city, the woman behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said (paraphrased--forgive me, it's been a week), "I just wanted to thank you. I ride this train every day and never give it a second thought. Seeing the journey through their eyes has made me realize just how wonderful it is."

I concur. I thanked her and told her that EVERY DAY is like that for me, thanks to them. Is it any wonder I try not to refer to it as "homeschooling them", but rather "WE are homeschooling"? I truly think the greatest gift our children give to us (besides humility!) is a renewal of wonder.