Friday, October 25, 2013

Singing from the heart

Wednesday we picked up the kids after school and brought them to our house for an hour of play until their Daddy could come get them.

For most of that time, Augie played with his beloved Lego fire department.

Then he wandered over to the guitar and began to strum. And to sing a song he seemed to be making up on the spot. It went something like this:

Daddy and I have a lot in common.
We love games - board and video.
We love books - comic and chapter.
We love to go to Fort Snelling.
[then a few more things, and then]
Daddy I aDORE you
I'll always be there FOR you.

Our first thought: How sweet for this little boy to make up a song to express his love for Daddy. Our second thought: What a clever use of language. The parallel construction in those lines about games and books seems pretty sophisticated. And the last two lines make your heart melt. As we praised the song, he told us he borrowed the last lines from Phineas and Ferb, an animated series the kids watch. Great choice, we said.

We said Augie should sing the song to his dad. Immediately he wanted to orchestrate it. He would play the drums, Peter should play guitar, Vi and I would pick up other instruments. We countered that this should be a "quiet song," without the big drum kit. But Augie was busy trying to teach Peter, and then Vi, how to play guitar accompaniment: "You strum the lower notes fast, like this, and then two high notes slow." I realized later the two high notes were for the words adore and for. I should note that the guitar is untuned and missing a string so all its music is, shall we say, approximate. Augie began conducting us, using all the techniques he's picked up from his music teacher.

As this was going on, Eric (also known as Daddy) came in. We called him to the living room and had him sit on the couch. Augie suddenly wasn't talking, so I said, "Daddy, Augie has a special song for you."

At that Augie said, "I get a little queasy singing for everybody. I want this to be one-to-one, me and Dad." Peter and I quickly went to the kitchen, out of view but not out of earshot.

Accompanying himself on guitar, Augie sang the song just like he had the first time. As he sang, he kept moving a little closer until he was maybe four feet in front of his one-man audience. He kept his eyes on his dad and never noticed that now we could see him from the kitchen. It was the sweetest thing. It will be in my memory forever. I know it will live in his dad's heart, too. Plus Eric captured it on his iPhone, so he can watch and listen any time he wants.

Peter and I have both been saying that Augie has music in him. We've shown him that there are ways to make exactly the notes you want, and ways to write down the notes you want, and we've said we'll help him with that whenever he's ready. So far he's happy just to sing and play from the heart. And really, what more could you want?

Augie and Daddy at Star Lake this summer

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Life lessons from the castle

Once upon a time, in a land far away, some jumbo cardboard crates were filled with appliances and sent to the United States of America, where they made their way to our house. The boxes were cut into lovely large pieces of cardboard and set aside, full of potential for any number of activities.

The princess and the knight-defender-cook (and the iPad)
At first, two slabs of cardboard were used as side-by-side play areas for building Lego sets. They kept each child's pieces separate from the other's. Equally important, they provided a neutral background where the tiny pieces won't be lost against the pattern of the living-room carpet. They worked so well that we knew they'd be around as long as there are children and new Lego sets.

Meanwhile the children propped the cardboard against furniture and crawled beneath, pretending to be muskrats hiding from predators. Their structures grew taller and became a fort. Grandpa found more slabs and it became a castle where one child is usually a fantasy princess and the other a knight fiercely protecting against armies of invaders.

Defensive weapons April 2012
The castle roof was flat at first. The knight-defender would fortify it with all kinds of improvised weapons and vehicles. These were heavy and the structure unstable, so the whole thing often crashed to the floor without warning.
New improved Cardboard Castle

Enter Velcro. Grandpa has made the castle stronger but we can still collapse it, to clean or to allow grownups to use the living room or to use the pieces flat when new Legos arrive. He also made the whole thing a little bigger and expanded the roof so it can be either flat or peaked. At the children's request, he added a row of windows (for defense, they said), a "secret" back door, inside and outside latches on the main door, and a room divider.

Some food and dishes
The children immediately filled every bit of space, hauling in pillows, blankets, chairs, and their play food and cooking implements. The castle is down right now, but when it's rebuilt the knight-defender wants to leave out the room divider so he can bring in the table that matches their chairs. That's because the knight often cooks for himself and the princess. They talk over their "meals" and their conversations are increasingly interesting.

A week ago, I crept into the living room and sat on the couch listening in. As quickly as he could invent a dish, she would toss it out the window to feed the dragons. He was beginning to get impatient with this generosity. I tuned out for a while, and then I heard this from the knight-defender-cook:

"Vi, you can't live on rainbows. That's why I'm making bread."

She is a rainbow girl, a dreamer, a child who tells you in the same breath that she knows dragons are make-believe and that yes, she wants a real one for a pet. He is a different kind of dreamer, with an imagination that expresses itself more concretely in Lego inventions and a complete menu and business plan for the smoothie shop he wants to run some day.

I love his declaration, because it shows the contrast between them, and because it encapsulates one of the balances we all need to strive for. Let's do what we need to do, and let's have a few rainbows along the way.

This post is linked to the GRAND Social. Follow the link to meet more blogging grandparents.


Related Posts with Thumbnails