A million words in one visit

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a visit with the grandchildren is worth a million words.
Pictures via emails, weblogs and Facebook entries enhance their a parent’s written or verbal description, but all that pales next to the visits we had with most of the grandchildren this summer.

Reports of a grandchild’s detours in developing certain skills did not impact me as much as working with her myself. Personally realizing the deficit, I increased my concern and prayers for this child who needs more time, more teaching and more practice to acquire age appropriate abilities. I may not have walked in the grandchild’s shoes, but I did see her struggles first hand.

Getting to know a grandchild’s abilities begins the day I look deep into the newborn’s eyes – as I did in July when we welcomed the third grandson. He stared back thoughtfully and explored his world visually as his big sister held him proudly – with her daddy’s help. When we got together again six weeks later, I snapped picture after picture of him giving his daddy a lopsided grin.

No photograph can capture his sister’s obsession with serving me tea and cookies on the tiny tea set I brought for our weekend together. Her mother vowed to pull out the tea set they had at home. Nor, can a camera catch the wonder of the morning the 2-year-old decided I needed sunscreen at the pool. She carefully rubbed the lotion on her hands and then gently worked the sunscreen across my nose, cheeks and jaw — just as her mother had done to her face earlier.

One week, an elementary aged-grandchild and I shared information as we walked around the block each night reviewing and talking about the Bible verses we had been trying to memorize. We went over each phrase, exploring the meaning in her language. The child’s eyes lit up and her body posture conveyed her intense interest and pleasure at learning and understanding the ancient phrases.

My daughter keeps me up-to-date with cute stories about her two little ones, but only during visits can I grasp the energy and interaction of her tiny daughter. I watched bemused as her brother dug a road in a corner of our yard playing with my convoy of trucks. Although I hear about their mom’s interpretation of baby talk, nothing replicates hearing the inflection of a 16-month-old calling out “Hi, edduddy.” (Hi! Everbody!)
Every one of the quartet of grandkids we visited recently entertained me with their sense of fun. One afternoon I began slicing slabs of watermelon. Before I could half and quarter the slices, the kids grabbed the green circles and ate out the centers – washing their faces with watermelon juices. They gave me wet watermelon grins as I snapped photos of them – including one child sporting a natural green and white crown.

Mornings, I kept quiet as they logged onto their computers and attended virtual school at home via the Internet. Well, I kept quiet, until – like any kid with a substitute teacher – they tested the limits and pulled out handcrafts to work, books to read and video games to play while the far away teacher lectured. Even in virtual school, kids will be kids when the regular teacher leaves the room.

Between school sessions, the trio of girls gave me a makeover complete with generous swipes of purple powder from the youngest who re-applied the purple to my cheeks every time her sisters and I wiped it off.

A couple afternoons they worked on writing paragraphs or poems and I discovered a budding author in our grandson. I never would have discovered his command of the language, if I had not been there to read it first hand. Because I was there, I heard the ease at which the kindergartner tackled chapter books and the numbers she skipped when counting to 100.
Counting my summer visits as time well spent, I tally up several million words of summer memories.

(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at joanh@everybody.org)

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