Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Latham Family Adventures: Poor People

     The Little Lathams were fascinated by the idea of being “poor”. Being too young to realize the heartbreak of true poverty, they based their ideas on the stories we read together. Many folk and fairy tales feature clever characters that must rely solely on wit and ingenuity to survive. These characters not only seemed to have a multitude of adventures, but many times they turned out to be the heroes of the stories.

     So was the mind-set when the children set out to play a game they called “Poor People”. Barefoot and dressed in raggedy clothes, the only thing they took was a basket or bag for gathering. They left me with some advice, “Be careful what you leave outside…there might be poor people around who would take things from your yard.” “Yeah, like lemonade!”  

    Off they went to fend for themselves. It was a scraggly group sneaking around in the garden. They gathered green beans from the vine, onions and anything else that looked ripe enough to eat! (They consumed more vegetables as poor people than they did at the dinner table!). Sooner or later the poor people ended up at the huge patch of wild blackberries at the edge of the property. There, they feasted until their fingers were stained purple.

     Next, they decided it was getting dark. The poor people would have to bed down for the night. They chose a spot under the trees and curled up, five in a row.  They pretended to sleep through a long night (about 10 minutes).  

    At some point in the day, I rambled outside with a jug of lemonade and some cups. I settled at the picnic table for a while, and then suddenly realized that I had left something in the house. I ran back in completely forgetting about my lemonade! It didn’t take long before five dirty faces peered around the tree trunks along the edge of the woods. Two of the motley figures dashed into the yard.  They made off with the goods and disappeared back into the trees with the others cheering them on.

      Hansel and Gretel would be proud!


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Small People Love Small Places

It was a great day when my husband brought home a big, empty box from the appliance store! There were three preschoolers in the family at the time and they took one look and knew just what they wanted. They wanted to be inside that box! The cardboard lasted a couple of weeks before falling to bits. It became a play house, pirate ship, and school bus.

Then there was the two month period when my daughter practically lived in the wooden cradle we brought home for her soon-to-be little brother. She took everything she needed into that cradle to stay busy: toys, crayons, books, stuffed animals. Busy, she stayed. And happy, too, for quite a while every day!
As our children got to be a little older, they still gravitated toward those spots that made their play more private, cozy. In the yard, was a huge cedar tree with drooping branches. The ground under the tree was soft and dry. It was a great place to play, hidden away from the rest of the world.

I always thought it was cute to see kids playing happily in a place all their own. But now, I realize there was more to it than that. Kids need to feel safe and in control of their surroundings now and then. As an adult, can you imagine what it would feel like to experience something new every day in a giant, noisy world? I know I get overwhelmed sometimes by the fast pace and extreme-ness of life. My safe place is the snug corner of my couch. I often go there with a piping hot cup of coffee!
Of course, we as parents want to challenge and stimulate our children. We want them to keep exploring and experiencing our giant, noisy, wonderful world. They do have to grow up after all!

But, there are also times when we need to provide them with an environment they can totally manage on their own. Let them feel safe in a niche just their size. Give them a place where they can create and pretend. You’ll be amazed at the growing that can take place there, too.  
So what do you say? Isn’t today a good day to drape that bed sheet over the table and watch the kids disappear into their own little kingdom?