The lessons I learn from the children I teach most of6ten happen inside the classroom walls of my own home. As my last child enters her final year of high school, those classroom doors, inch by inch, are starting to swing shut. In many ways, she acts and talks and thinks like an adult. She understands the cynicism behind a Murphy’s law daily calendar entry, and scarier yet, when I comment on the cynicism, she understands the definition of the word “cynicism.”
With a surge of longing, I grasp at her childhood, trying to draw it back to me. “Don’t grow up,” I implore her for about the thousandth time of her childhood. She stops packing her purse with contact solution and make-up. “What made you say that?” she asks.
“Don’t go to school today,” I say as I hug her. “Let’s stay home and make mud pies and play with dollies.”
Still incredulous at her mother’s insane babble, the adult pragmatic side of her nature takes over. “We don’t have any mud.”
“Oh yeah,” I relinquish. “Well, there’s still doll babies. And we can make tea and crumpets and have a tea party with the dolls.”
“I have to go to school, Mommy,” she counters, holding the fleeting sunbeam of childhood in her hand in the length of the single word endearment of “Mommy.”
“Tuesday (the dog) can help you eat the crumpets,” my husband offers.
“But she can’t drink tea,” I pout. “Stay home and we’ll play with dolls and build towers with blocks and knock them down.”
“We don’t have any blocks either,” she says. Cruel child. Must she remind me that the toys of yesterday have left with her childhood? Fortunately, she has forgotten that the dolls are gone too, all except the sit-pretties that stay behind glass so they won’t get dirty and they can last forever.
My children have taught me how to play. And now that I have finally learned the lesson of play, they have entered the same busy, frenetic world that I am trying to escape. Perhaps that is why mothers long to have grandchildren so we can catch the sunbeams of childhood again and play with the sit-pretty dollies we kept under glass too long and let the dog join us for tea and crumpets.