Most of the "real work" that shows up doesn't need much direction. It's given by the older kids, real needs and the rhythms of the day. It's expected, full of autonomy and often attached to a bit of authentic urgency that they rise up to address. A few examples from this week, along with a daily media exception:
Animals. Even while we travel we can't resist the care and keeping of little things. These crawfish live under the dock, but we haven't gotten around to making our own traps. So we buy them at the scuba shop for $2.50, scrounged up from under the cabin cushions. Of course, animals require a habitat, food, cleaning (and extra supervision/sometimes taking over)...
Tying the ropes. Where we live, there are no cars, only boats. So every child learns to jump out & tie the ropes by the time they're 3 or 4, and to dock, or "park," first with rowboats and kayaks, and eventually with motors and steering wheels. When the neighbor kids are all together, there's lots of compromise as they take turns playing passenger, driver, food service, and dock boy/girl. The dockers have to entertain themselves while they wait; sweeping, clearing, and teaching themselves every possible kind of knot.
City planners. Despite my best attempts to eliminate mini-economies that leave the little ones crying "broke!" my kids are all about creating currencies, roads, products, taxes & toll booths. (That's a toll booth on the tree) They trade poker chips, sticks, fishing lures, you name it. All good stuff, probably, it just requires an agreement that the big kids always make sure the little ones are provided for, and that they don't go overboard handing out comprehensive city policies. If I try not to pay too much attention, they pretty much walk around feeling uber-purposeful...
Laundry. Dishes. Table setting. There's not much argument when you have a community of others waiting on you (from them or us)...
Reverence. With an authentic, deep respect for the lake that feeds them, they troll the bottom for things that aren't supposed to be there. Like these sharp mussel shells, or smoothed out bottle glass. This is a cultural practice, picked up by imitating the big kids and a pastime that mimics dice-diving. If they happen to find a really nice bit of stick, these shells make great whittling knives for pulling out the soft parts to uncover lovely curves and interesting patterns.
Gathering kindling + firestarting. There's always a chance of squalls, even on the brightest, hottest days, so there needs to be a solid stack of wood, and baskets full of kindling. When they're little, we sing, "sticks for the fire, sticks for the fire. We're gonna get some sticks for the fire." As they become strong and fast, it becomes a race to find large branches, which get propped against granite and stomped on, creating instant piles of kindling. Once inside, they learn to build the fire: crumpled paper, plenty of kindling, three small logs placed straight ahead, three across, and two straight ahead. Obviously, this particular job is tightly linked to an innate sense of honor. Do we let them light it? Of course.
At this point, everyone is tired. Full, and used up. In every house here there's a similar scene: candles on the table, with family members playing cards, drawing, reading, knitting, or fixing something. Maybe some bickering. At our place, the chef du jour is always blasting a playlist of songs we love - a huge mix of 70's singer-songwriters, world music, 80's alternative, do wop, 90's R&B, country, and old-skool hip-hop. It never fails to surprise me when they know every word to Kenny Roger's "the Gambler." There's more media mixed in to our daily rhythms.
And it is what it is. Waldorf-modern. How do you include media in your daily life? xx. Maya
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