Learning and understanding through experience
On the day my grand daughter Phoebe (now six) was born I got to hold her for many hours. Her momma and dad were a little tired after a rough night in the hospital. While I was up late, excited about the news, I slept great, with the realization my life would never be the same. I was determined to be the very best grampa in the world. As I held her that first day I knew I was the luckiest man alive. Little did I know what was in store in the next years.
Through the last six years I got to see little Phoebe a lot. In the first months she often slept in my arms as I sat at my desk and pretended to work. She spent many, many hours playing in my studio, most often with me on the floor beside her. The rocking horse I made for her lives here. Phoebe's toys are often scattered on the floor. Stuffed animals litter my studio. And her drawings are taped in various places around my desk. Out in the shop her playhouse takes up considerable floor space. Phoebe's massive rock collection lines the top of our fence. Her bike is parked on my porch. It's immediately obvious to anyone who comes that a kid spends lots of time here.
Phoebe knows her way around my toolbox and often 'works' in the shop. Her favorite job is painting although she will try anything I need to do. We have invested countless hours into our relationship and we have enjoyed many, many adventures together. Like my kids did when they were young (and beyond) she helps me often. I've learned it only takes a little longer if a child helps.
The payoff is immeasurable for me. The most horrible day is made right in an instant with a hug from Phoebe. Her endless chatter and questions cheer me immensely. Through her eyes I enjoy the limitless wonder of a world seen for the very first time. I daily discover the joys of making clouds of dust, watching various colors of paint run together, see dragons in the sky, learn to fly and a thousand other adventures.
Phoebe has also taught me things about myself and brought a clear understanding of who I am now and who I was growing up. Through her I have discovered what made me different. In a good way.
Phoebe is full of curiosity. And while every child has this characteristic, with Phoebe it is overflowing to the maximum possible. She sees EVERYTHING around her. She has to try everything, touch everything, and figure out how it works. For Phoebe every day is much too short, for there are far too many interesting things to learn about, to experience. In watching her, my own life became crystal clear.
I was labeled the bad kid in our family - the one who was always at the center of trouble. I remember clearly always getting into trouble, but never considered myself a bad person. In watching how Phoebe operates I now understand how it was. I was simply being me and I had no ill intent. Like Phoebe, the instruction to not get dirty, not to go somewhere, or to not touch was simply impossible. Really impossible. If I saw something that piqued my interest I had to find our about it - no matter what.
A while back Phoebe's dad poured a resin countertop. Phoebe received very clear instructions to NOT touch it. The countertop was suddenly as appealing to Phoebe as a candle flame would be to a moth. She kept one eye on the countertop all evening. Each time she got close she was warned off. And all through the evening she asked endless questions about the process. She wanted to know what it was, was it sticky- was it dry? Just before she went to bed her mom noticed little Phoebe was doing an extra good job of washing her hands and was thankful. The next day as the countertop was being packed up her dad noticed a small rough spot in one of the corners, wondering how he had missed it... but on closer inspection he could clearly see a child sized hand print. Phoebe had eventually succumbed to her curiosity and touched it, unseen. She immediately got the answer she was so desperately seeking. In seeing the hand print I was secretly glad, for I knew that when I was her age the hand print would undoubtably have been mine.
And watching Phoebe operate on a daily basis made me realize this was me growing up. I had to know everything, how it worked, what it felt like. I had to experience everything for myself first hand - even if my parents or other adults in charge expressly forbid it.
Today, Phoebe and I helped my dad move. We worked hard but it was a tough job made easier with Phoebe's help. As usual, while we worked we were in search of new knowledge, new discoveries. How high could we stack the dolly before it fell over. what would happen if every button in the elevator was pushed? Phoebe was in charge of the elevator and she made a few extra trips up and down by herself. One of those helping was tempted to be a little upset with the wait, but the joy on Phoebe's face as the doors opened made it clear the experience was nothing short of awesome. On each trip back to the truck Phoebe rode the dolly with great delight.
With Phoebe's help moving day was transformed from a necessary task to a wonderful adventure. I learned once more (as I do each day I am with her) that when playing is mixed in with work great discoveries can take place.
I know when I grow up I want to be more like Phoebe.