The Last Sandwich...
Another parental milestone has been reached in this year of lasts (which, fortunately, also means a corresponding year of firsts, just different ones): last night I made my last school lunch sandwich. Twelve years of sandwiches in a sea of packed lunches. Looking back, there were nearly two years’ worth of peanut butter and honey (I think that was first and second grades, if memory serves) followed by a year or two of peanut butter and Nutella (when we found out that particular combination was even more magical and wondrous). There were tortilla roll-up sandwiches, flatbread sandwiches spread with hummus, pita bread sandwiches--which actually were kind of a PITA, if you know what I mean. (It’s tough getting the pita to split correctly, so it can be a challenging medium where sandwich-making is concerned.) Then there were the bagel sandwiches. Many, many bagels. Everything bagels--those with the poppy seeds and onion--make a very good sandwich. The downside is bagel sandwiches take longer to eat, so those were given up sometime last year due to pressing lunchtime business. We’re finishing our long homemade lunch run with turkey and swiss on whole grain bread, and a little bit of mayo and dijon. Sometime last year, when his insulated lunch bag gave out, I found his old Thunderbirds lunch box from when he was about eight years old. (Have I mentioned that he never gets rid of anything?) This is what he’s carried to school during his junior and senior years of high school, becoming somewhat of a legend among the younger students. That is what he took to school today, along with a note from me, and a special last-day-of-school rabbit drawn by his dad.
When we started StoryRhyme.com, our boy was eight years old. It was a dream, an idea to spread our love of reading to the world. Free stories for everyone. Paper boats floating in the rain gutter, a couple of old dragons sitting around talking. Fairy dust. Giraffe emporiums. Though my writing life and energies have been diverted into writing books, and the site hasn’t grown in the directions we had once planned, people still visit every day from around the world. One of the blog posts that gets hit most often is the one where I wrote about the use of situational irony in The Gift of the Magi. (A beautiful story that everyone should read, especially if you’re in the mood for an ugly cry.)
If I could give advice to parents or prospective parents, it is this: Read to your kids. Also, if you’re a parent of young children and feel tempted to put a television in the car, think about all of the conversation you’ll miss. Think about those spontaneous chats that happen when they’re sitting in the back, and you’re up front, and they’ve had time to mull over whatever it is that’s bothering them. Or just random, funny observations that will make you laugh until you cry. Don’t miss those opportunities. (They’re your kids--talk to them!) Something else to consider: kids need to learn about handling boredom. They need to be able to look out the car window, process the passing world, and just be. (If it gets really bad in the car, you can always throw your iPhone at them.) And if you’re thinking about any kind of videogame system in the house--just no. This will save battles, money, heartache, and so much trouble down the road. Don’t do it. They’ll play them at their friends’ houses anyway. And you’re welcome. (My friend Lorenzo says they appeal to the monkey part of the brain.) But books? No limit. Line their shelves with them. Stack them under their beds. Sprinkle them throughout the house. Give them the funny books that adults don’t approve of--those are usually the best.
Read to them every night, even if you’re tired from working all day. Maybe just a chapter. Or how about two? Three could never really hurt... Read to them every night because one day, you’ll pass their door and realize they’re leaving for college soon, and you’ve made the last sandwich. And it all happened so fast.