Author: Barbara Kimes Myers Title: Young Children and Spirituality Publication Info: New York : Routledge, 1997. ISBN: 0415916550
This book disappointed me mostly because it was not what I expected – namely a book that would help me as a parent understand my child’s spiritual needs. This book is more of a psychology and childhood development book. Kimes Myers has a broad definition of spirituality within the realms of family life, community, school and multicularism. It’s an interesting book, but not being in the author’s intended audience I didn’t find it easy to comprehend or apply to real life.
Today is the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street which debuted on November 10, 1969. I’m dedicating my posts for the rest of this week in tribute to this pioneering children’s show that is one of my all time favorite television programs of any genre. I was part of the first generation to watch Sesame Street back in the 70’s and now I’m watching it again with my son. The show has changed much over 40 years as has the way we watch it. Peter & I have never watched an actual full episode together but rely on clips from the Sesame Street website and YouTube as well as Sesame Street DVD’s.
Here are some clips of Sesame Street’s finest moments:
An early opening with the famous theme song shows some distinctly urban scenes. At a time when cities were falling to ruin and thought to be scary it was nice to see how fun they still were:
The Muppets are the stars of the show and some of the best segments are when they interact with ordinary kids. Here is Herry Monster counting with John John:
Of course, the Muppets were great all on their own. Grover teaches us the difference between near and far in this famous skit:
Sesame Street also is the source of many a memorable song. My son & I sing Ernie’s “Rubber Duckie” pretty much every night at bath time:
When actor Will Lee died in 1983, Sesame Street acknowledged the death of his character Mr. Hooper in what may be the saddest six minutes in children’s television history:
Kids who grew up in my generation were endlessly frustrated that the adult characters on the show would never believe Big Bird when he talked about Mr. Snuffleupagus. Snuffy was finally revealed in 1985 at a time when Elmo was first becoming a prominent character:
Speaking of Elmo, Big Bird, and Mr. Snuffleupagus, my son loves this song. I admit it’s rather catchy:
More posts and more memories to come this weekend.
Alternate coverage on the Sesame Street anniversary:
Karp’s follow-up to The Happiest Baby on the Block offers very practical advice to parents for dealing with the toddler years of 1 to 4 years old. I think it’s an even better book partly because it avoids the “infomercial style” of writing and is a more practical manual. The basic gist of the book is that when a child starts to throw a tantrum the parent should acknowledge what is upsetting by repeating back it back (“the fast food rule”) and to use a simple vocabulary of words called “toddlerese” that toddlers will understand most when they are upset. This book doesn’t have all the answers, for example, what to say to your son when you have no idea what is making him upset. Overall though I found it a book with useful advice and practically organized.
I often find myself idly surfing the net and making discoveries of something from my past. Recently, I became reacquainted with Old Macdonald’s Farm, a place in Norwalk, CT that I loved to visit when I was very young. Before being closed and replaced by a corporate office park, Old Macdonald’s Farm had:
an old-fashioned country-style restaurant that looked like it was in a barn with the booths decorated as stables (complete with the names of horses on plaques over the booths)
a candy store with lots of different types of penny-candy including every imaginable flavor of candy sticks.
a petting zoo with goats, sheep, cows and other farm animals.
a small amusement park with a train ride and other rides that appealed to small children
When it closed, I was heart-broken, especially since a covered wooden bridge was preserved to connect the very modern office park to its parking lot. My younger self cursed the corporate suits who destroyed this little bit of Americana every time I passed and saw that bridge. Okay, maybe not, but it was some similar emotion.
There’s not about Old Macdonald’s Farm on the web, but I found a couple of photos. I was awestruck by how the photos look just as I remember. The first picture is of the restaurant from a website called Cardcow which collects old postcards.
The next picture is from a photo blog called Serendipitous by a woman named Kathy Chiapetta. The photos appear to be scanned from a 2005 Darien Times article which is not available online. The one thing I don’t see in any of the photos is a big waterwheel that impressed me as a child.
Thanks for indulging me. If you have memories and pictures of Old Macdonald’s Farm please let me know. Previous Trips Down Memory Lane:
I hesistate to put “Lilac Sunday” into the title of this post since I didn’t see any lilacs on my visit. Susan, Peter & I took a lovely Mother’s Day walk on a sunny, blustery day and arrived at Arnold Arboretum fairly early in the morning. This is a good time to get there on Lilac Sunday before approximately 3.25 kajillion people descend on the Arbortetum. Peter received a lovely tatoo of the Earth with flowers and a recycling logo and immediately set to work on removing it with his teeth.
Next we joined Arnold Arboretum curator Michael Dosmann lead an excellent tour to the lilacs (“just to the lilacs, not of the lilacs” he specified). We learned fascinating things about maples, lindens and tulip trees. After the tour I chose to luxuriate in the grass while Susan chased Peter up and down the hill to the lilacs. So my family saw the lilacs on Lilac Sunday while I lay splayed in the grass photographing buttercups.
I will have to return on a less-crowded day this week to visit the lilacs. Until then, here are my photos from Sunday, 100% lilac-free.
I’ve hesitated to write anything on this blog from a parenting perspective since I’m such a novice parent, but after 17 months as Daddy I think there’s one issue I can write about and maybe actually be helpful: commuting with kids. Or one child at least. My son Peter has been riding the T since he was three weeks old and for the past seven months he & I have made the daily commute from Jamaica Plain to Allston where he goes to child care and I go to work.
Riding the subway to bring Peter to child care has many obvious advantages: save money, save gas, reduce auto exhaust pollution, et al. Developmentally I think it is also much more interesting for Peter. He could sit in a car seat in the back of a car (facing backward before he turned one) and have not much to do for half an hour, or ride the subway for 45 minutes where he gets to watch and interact with numerous people and read books and play with toys with Dad. Turns out, Peter loves the T. He loves to wave and say hi to people, and especially has fun making faces at other children on the T. I find myself in conversations more often with my fellow passengers as well, who often seem delighted by a little boy in this grown-up world of commuters. In fact, if I were a single dad I don’t think I’d be one for long because Peter particularly likes to flirt with women. Mostly, I enjoy the company. It’s a lovely way to begin and end each work day spending time with my little boy.
Stroller vs. Carrier
One of the first things to consider when taking children on public transportation is how to carry the child. A carrier of some sort – a sling, frontpack or backpack – can be a good option. On a crowded subway it’s definitely the sleeker option less likely to create a hindrance for other passengers. Plus one can take full advantage of the stairs and escalators instead of looking for the often hidden, sometimes broken elevators.
When Peter was very little my wife and I carried him in a Maya sling and it worked quite well. When he got bigger I tried a backpack and liked it for all the reasons mentioned above. One day I noticed women taking pictures of us with our cellphone as I stood hanging on to a strap with Peter on my back. I turned my head and saw that Peter was also holding a strap which made us so photogenic. Unfortunately there were downsides to the backpack as well. Peter was constantly losing his hats, gloves, and shoes or his nose would get runny or some other problem that was difficult to address without taking off the pack. And taking off and putting on the pack on a moving train is not a safe or easy thing to do. I was also constantly afraid I was going to whack some other passenger and/or Peter when moving in tight spaces. Throw in some back problems and the back pack was not for me. A front pack of some sort may make a better option and will definitely be something to look into for a future child.
So I use a stroller, a sturdy not overly-large MacLaren. The stroller takes a load off my back and makes it easier to see that Peter is all put-together as well as interact to play with toys, read books or just hold hands when we’re tired. Unfortunately, the stroller can be a bit bulky and get in people’s way, and I’m afraid I’ve run over more than one set of toes trying to steer it in tight spaces. Sometimes on the Red Line in the morning I have to let a train (or two!) pass by because they are just too crowded for me and a stroller to fit. This is why I loved the Big Red seatless cars but apparently they’re not running them anymore.
Riding the elevators adds a bit of time to the commute and they’re not always in the most intuitive locations. For example, if riding the Red Line toward Ashmont/Braintree and wanting to transfer to the Orange Line to Forest Hills, one must get off at Park Street and walk down the pedestrian tunnel to the Orange Line platform at Downtown Crossing. Heading the other way, one must exit the turnstiles at Downtown Crossing, walk down the Winter Street Concourse, reenter the turnstiles at the other end and take the elevator down to the Red Line (makes me wonder if a person in a wheelchair who doesn’t have a Charlie Card link pass to have to pay to get back in, which doesn’t seem to fair). This actually isn’t all that inconvenient just not the most obvious route to make a transfer.
Overall, once I’ve learned where all the elevators are and the best spots in the car to go with the stroller (all the way at the end so I don’t get in the way of aisle) I think the stroller has been very positive for me and for Peter. As I mentioned above most of the other passengers seem to be very welcoming to an infant on the T, and often people offer me a seat. That’s one courtesy I never expected anyone to share with burly, 6’1″ man in the pink of health!
Problems and Potential Pitfalls
While my commuting experience with Peter has been overwhelmingly positive there are a few problems to watch out for:
Other passengers – My greatest fear going into this is that I would encounter people who would find Peter too noisy, too distracting, or otherwise too bothersome to their commute and they would let me know about it in no uncertain terms. Blessedly this has not happen as people have been mostly friendly and helpful or at least hold their tongue. One grandmotherly type actually read “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” to Peter and a young man told me Peter was the highlight of his day. There was one occasion when Peter was five months old when a woman told me that T was too dangerous and I should get a car (which defies logic since automobile crashes are a leading cause of death in the US). Even though that was upsetting, she actually said it in a way that made it seem that she thought she was being helpful. I’ve yet to meet the truly nasty person on the T which makes me more trustful of my fellow humans. Still, I worry because of
Meltdowns – For whatever reason – because he likes other people, hanging out with Dad, or the soothing rhythm of the rails – Peter is usually pretty happy when we’re on the T. But he has his bad days. He particularly doesn’t like it when the subway car gets overly crowded and like many a commuter he complains when there are delays. One morning he had a complete meltdown while we were stuck for an interminable amount of time between Central and Harvard and I had to contend with trying to soothe him and worrying about how he was affecting the other passengers. Stressful to say the least. All babies cry, and there’s no foolproof way to prevent this, but I believe distraction is the key – have toys, teething rings, books, or anything the child loves on hand. Sometimes with Peter it’s as simple as turning the stroller in a different direction so he has someone else to look. Again, other passengers are my friends offering a silly face or a tissue during my times of need.
Buses – The subway is very workable for commuting with a stroller but I’ve all but given up on the bus. The narrow aisle on the newer models leaves nowhere to put a stroller out of the way, and folding up the stroller and holding Peter isn’t very feasible either. Perhaps with a less active child that might work. Route 66 especially is a nightmare. Route 39 has a nice spot for strollers in the bendy section, but there’s no guarantee that you can actually get down the aisle to that point when it’s crowded.
So that is my experience commuting with a child on the T. I hope the suggestions are useful to any other parents out there. If you’re thinking about taking the T with your own children and wondering if it’s worth the hassle, I say go for it. I find it rewarding in ways I never imagined. If you have any questions or suggestions of your own, please post them in the comments or email me at liamothemts AT gmail DOT com. I’d particularly like to hear from parents about their experiences with an older child or with multiple children on the T.
Hans Indigo Spencer narrated the event by telling stories about the pieces and involving the children through questions and answers. Spencer also composed a great piece about a lonely cello looking for a friend at school. The music was interesting and accessible to children — even my 7-month old boy who was rapt in attention by the drums during “She who sleeps on a small blanket” — without being too cutesy for adults (my son did get fussy during the narration parts though).
Another example of why Forest Hills Cemetery is one of the great venues for arts and culture in Boston
The program included:
Till Eulenspiegel einmal anders! for clarinet, bassoon, French horn, violin, and double bass
Six Questions for violin and percussion
Katherine from “After Reading Shakespeare” for solo cello
“She who sleeps on a small blanket” for solo percussion
Conversation for clarinet and bassoon
Hans Indigo Spencer
“Conversations with a Cellist” for cello solo
with clarinet, bassoon, French horn, violin, double bass, & percussion
First, an explanation of the title. Lilac Sunday is an annual event at Arnold Arboretum celebrated this year for the 100th time. 8 years ago Susan and I were walking through Central Square in Cambridge talking about going to Lilac Sunday and maybe sending lilacs to our mothers for Mothers Day. At this point, the man walking in front of us turned around, looked right in my face and said “YEAH!” He then turned around and resumed his stride as if nothing happened. To this day I don’t know if he liked the idea or if lilacs didn’t agree with him. Regardless, neither of us can talk about Lilac Sunday without interjecting a random “YEAH!” here or there.
After 8 years of being typical Somervilleans who avoided long trips across the river, we could not avoid Lilac Sunday since the Arboretum is next door to our current residence. The first thing we noticed about Lilac Sunday is that it attracts a lot of people, especially babies, and dogs. I’ve grown accustomed to the solitude of walking Peter through the Arboretum on weekday mornings so the crowds were a bit overwhelming. Still it was a nice day to inspect the lilacs, sniff their aromas, and relax in the grass.
Peter checks out the lilacs.
Lilacs up close.
Another type of lilac. What do you want, I’m a librarian not a botanist!
This is not a lilac. It’s called Orange Quince, but we did not have runcible spoons.
This also is not a lilac, but it sure is pretty to see blossoms against the blue sky again.
People, people everywhere. And trees, yes there are lots of trees in the Arboretum.
The Happiest Baby on the Block (2004) is a self-help book for new parents to help soothe fussy babies recommended to us by several of our fellow new parents. Harvey Karp, M.D., whom our pediatrician calls a “goofy genius,” puts together a package of skills to help calm even the fussiest of babies. While he often refers to his methods as a “new way” they are rooted in ancient human traditions and the physiological needs of the infant. The cumulative effect is to make the baby experience the feeling of a safe and comfortable womb. This is due to the fact that due to evolutionary changes in the birth canal and the size of the baby’s head, human infants are actually born three months earlier than the ideal period of gestation (read Thumbs, Toes, and Tears to find out why). Dr. Karp refers to the baby’s first three months as “the fourth trimester.”
The means of inducing the calming reflex in a fussy baby are the 5 S’s:
Swaddling – tightly wrapping the baby to replicate the womb and prevent him from upsetting himself.
Side/Stomach position – while holding the baby, not when putting the baby to bed.
Shushing sounds – a natural talent for a librarian that recreates the constant white noise in the womb.
Swinging – steady but vigorous jiggling that creates a soothing motion for the baby.
Sucking – on a pacifier or a parent’s finger, soothing in the same way that he feeds.
I’ve found this book very helpful with our baby, although sometimes you have to do the 5 S’s for a long time to prevent fussiness from returning. While the content of the book is useful, the presentation needs work. A lot of the book reads like an infomercial (“soon you’ll find out the NEW method that will calm your baby!”) complete with testimonials from happy customers (“I can’t believe our baby calmed down right away. Thank you Dr. Karp!”). While some of the parents’ comments are useful as case studies much of that and the infomercial set up could be cut out and the whole thing could be made into more of a workbooks with lots of illustrations on how swaddle, swing, and otherwise soothe your baby. We also have the DVD of Happiest Baby on the Block which is useful for seeing how to do it, but I think a workbook version of the book would be a great resource.