out of the child rearing tunnel...
Sunday, December 26 2010
Gretchen's brother's family would all be staying for a week at some Jewish-themed activity camp in Kerhonkson, so they decided to swing by for a brief visit this morning. We'd cleaned up part of the house and Gretchen had even prepped a possible brunch meal. It seemed, though, that Gretchen's brother really preferred the idea of dining out even as he insisted that it was "up to" Gretchen what we'd do.
My little niece and nephew are a seven months older than when last we'd seen them (back in late May), and they're seeming much more like little people. Our nephew is nearly seven, and that accounts for his maturity, though even his sister (she's about four) seems relatively mature, perhaps because of the behavior being modeled by her older brother. As you might imagine, my nephew was delighted by a tour of my laboratory, messy as it was. The projects that immediately took his notice included a disembodied dual-cassette stereo component, the disco ball with its remote-controllable colored spotlights, and the four LCD monitors attached to my computer. He wanted to hang out and work on some project then and there, which was unrealistic given the time line, so instead I brought down two paint buckets full of brass fittings, which I allowed him to assemble like Legos in front of the fire. He was having all sorts of fanciful ideas about what exactly the fittings could be used to make, and I tried to put myself inside the head of a little kid experiencing such wonderment. If I'd had an uncle like me back when I was seven, the impact on me would have been huge, even from a brief encounter.
My nephew and his father delighted us with a few rounds of a card trick that simulated clairvoyance (using information cleverly encoded in a gesture made by a confidant). And then at some point we all went for a walk down the farm road and back. It was bitterly cold, so we were sure to bundle up. The parents ended up carrying their kids for much of the walk which probably warmed the parents, though at least one of the kids eventually started complaining about the cold. Meanwhile Sally was running around like a puppy and went to jump through a gate (something she's done dozens of times). But her depth perception was off and she jumped too soon, careening into a board and ended up flat on her back. She got up, shook it off, and seemed okay. Still, it was worrying. She's seemed increasingly batty in the last month or so and I've become a little worried about her behavior, which includes a lot of aimless wandering around the house, the yard, and even the neighborhood.
We ended up convoying in two cars to brunch at the Garden Café in Woodstock. On my nephew's insistence, I rode in the kid car with my sister-in-law and the two kids. The stereo was playing a number of classic childrens' songs, including "How Much is that Doggie in the Window?" and the relentless pædophilia-positive anthem, "This Old Man." Parenting seems like such a burden for the majority of people who undertake it, but one thing I hadn't even considered was the ordeal of spending the better part of a decade subjecting yourself to all the monotonous music you grew out of by the time you learned to multiply.
At the restaurant, my nephew and I were playing around with the calculator function of my brother-in-law's Blackberry. I was showing the classic trick of typing numbers on a screen that reveal a word when the screen is turned upside down. That was about as alphanumeric as old calculators got, though it was definitely an anachronistic application for a smart phone. At one point, though, we discovered the key sequence that opened access to the calculator's scientific functions. I was just barely able to explain the concept of square root to my nephew, but I had to draw the line at explaining trigonometric functions. A prerequisite for understanding those is division, something my nephew had yet to master.
Gretchen and I returned to Hurley and her brother and family headed down to Kerhonkson. Our positive experience with our niece and nephew had left us feeling more optimistic about the future of our relationships with our various child-rearing friends.
In the afternoon snow began to fall, the front edge of a powerful system coming up along the coast. Eventually winds started picking up and snow began to accumulate in earnest, the first appreciable amount of this winter. We canceled all our plans and looked forward to a lazy night indoors. I'd been careful to go around the yard collecting everything I'd be needing before April, including all the various dog toys.
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