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Children Just Watch

My Grand was 4 1/2 years old and she beat me in a second game of UNO.  The first game, I’d played to her hand to make sure that she won.  The next game, I played my cards.  Lou had announced, “UNO.  Red,” and laid a Draw Four card on the table.  I drew four cards.  She played her last card and beamed.  “I won again.  Two for me.  None for you.”

“Lou, you’re a really good UNO player.  How did you learn?” I asked.

“I watched Mommy and Daddy and David (her older brother) play and I just learned how.  I just watched.  I do what they do.”  Her answer hit a nerve that’d been burned into my brain many years earlier when I taught fourth grade.

Melody was one of my best-dressed students.  Her mother curled her hair every morning and tied it with ribbons that matched her outfit.  No jeans and t-shirts for her.  Her infectious greeting, “Good morning, everybody!” lit our classroom.  She hurried to my side after hanging her red wool coat on a coat hook.  “Mrs. Ray, will you please roll up my sleeves?”

The long sleeves of her plaid blouse hung unbuttoned.  “Sure.  Didn’t your mom have time to do it this morning?’  I asked.

“She didn’t know how.  I want my sleeves just like yours and she didn’t do it right.”  Just like my button-cuff sleeves that I rolled up because they were three inches too short for my long arms.  What else did Melody do just like me?

My Grand, now 5 1/2, and I agreed last week that some things in her craft box needed replacing.  “Bring it with you when you spend the night and we’ll clean it out and then go shopping,” I told Lou.

She sorted trash and treasures, putting loose stickers in a zip lock plastic bag, while I put a pot of water on the stove to boil pasta.  “I’m ready to make my list.  How do you spell tape?”  Lou stood at the kitchen table, with pencil and paper in hand.  Ten minutes later, she had her list.  Tape, glue, stickers.

“This glue,” she said and put it in our shopping basket.  She laid her list on the store floor and drew a line through the word glue.  A dozen packages of stickers hung at her eye level.  “These two,” she said within ten seconds.  The tape was high, out of her reach.  “Can you get the one in the middle?”  She drew lines through two more words: stickers and tape.  I complimented her on being a fast and good shopper.  “That’s because I do it a lot,” she said.  Lou shops with her mother who writes a grocery list and crosses off items that she puts in her shopping cart.

A hand scribbled sign hangs over my writing desk.  “Children watch.  Children learn.”  A sign that I moved from my school desk to my home desk.









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