Martha stood looking intently out the living room window. Suddenly, she burst out laughing. "Guys! Come look at this!"
A tiny calf - maybe two weeks old - was charging around in circles on the hillside behind Granddaddy Kendall's red barn. Tail held high and black fur glistening, he frolicked this way and that, lowering his head as he kicked up his heels.
Why was this so funny? Well, the little fellow was very earnestly chasing blackbirds. Seemed he had made it his personal job to keep the pasture free of the winged critters. He would lower his head and charge at a cluster of the birds. They would hop into the air just as he reached them, at the very last possible second, then flutter in the air a bit before settling back onto the hillside. Undaunted, the frisky calf would lower his head and charge again.
Yes, it did look rather silly, and we couldn't help smiling at the calf's playful antics. But to him, this was obviously serious business.
Which got me to thinking...
Play is the work of children. I remember reading in a child-development textbook many years ago, "Little stones are for little children to gather into little piles." Children - indeed, all young things, even calves and kittens - have serious business to tend to: it's called Play.
In our current sad age, we often think that, are often told by "the experts" that small children need to be busy doing other, more serious things. Like watching Baby Einstein. (Don't do it, Mom! Don't plug in that DVD!) Or memorizing word flashcards when they're three, "to get a jump start on school." (Don't do it, Mom! Don't buy those flashcards!) Or practicing sitting still on a "thinking mat," like they won't get enough practice sitting still when they are too soon sentenced to 6-8 hours a day in a classroom.
No, small children should not be doing the work of adults. They should not be clocking in at 7:45 in the morning and pulling an 8-hour shift. They have more important work to do.
Stacking little stones into piles. Chasing birds. Digging tunnels in the dirt under the porch. Making squash babies and mud pies. Running, climbing, yelling, singing - enjoying and learning from the delight of being so very much alive in this big, wonderful world.
Mom, do you really want to give your baby a head start, a good foundation?
Put away the LeapFrog and the educational DVD's and the flash cards.
Do something far better for your child. Go outside and play.
3 months ago