Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Better Plan

Isabella, my four-year-old granddaughter, was visiting for the day. I was excited; I had been rummaging in my attic and found some books and supplies I had saved from my years as a preschool teacher, and I was looking forward to letting Bella “discover” some of them.

I took out the container of color tiles. I remembered so many great math and sequencing activities with color tiles, and Bella and I were going to enjoy each one. But just after I opened the lid, the telephone rang. It was my dad.

We understand the interruption of a phone call. If only time could be suspended while we enjoy a leisurely telephone visit with someone we love, how wonderful that would be. But my dad was in a visiting mood, and time was not about to be put on hold. Neither was the active, curious mind of Isabella.

As I chatted with Daddy, I absently noted that Isabella had poured the one-inch square tiles onto the child-sized table. Except I think they had multiplied in the box during the years they were bored and stored in the attic, so now it looked like a mountain of Tub o’ Tiles. She began shoving small piles of them onto the hardwood floor: what a nice clickety sound they made as they hit and bounced along the oak flooring.

“Just a minute, Daddy,” I asked into the phone. I turned to Isabella, and said in my too-nice grandmother voice, “Bella, you will have to pick up the tiles you push onto the floor. So don’t push any more onto the floor, please."

She got up from the table about the time I finished my conversation with Daddy. After I asked her to clean up, she began picking up the tiles and putting some into the container, but then her arm slowly swept across the table to spill more onto the floor.

I ratcheted up my grandmother voice a notch. “Bella, stop! Please stop pushing the blocks!” I raised my eyebrows just a little for emphasis and did not smile my usual you-are-the-cutest-and-most-wonderful-thing-ever smile.

Sigh. Yet she continued. Now tiles were scattered on the table, under the table, and around the table. I dredged up my long-shelved mother/teacher efficiency and moved in her direction. I removed her arms from the table, and moved her chair away from the table all in one movement, and then eye-to-eye talked to her about obeying and doing right. As a good granddaughter ought when she has disobeyed, she said she was sorry and tears came to her eyes.

Then I showed her my idea. I put the tile bucket on the floor beneath the fall line of the tabletop. “See, here. Make a train on the table, like this, then drive that train right into the bucket.” I demonstrated, and the tiles fell neatly into the container. She loved this game (as I knew she would) and played it over and over until all the tiles were in the bucket. Throughout the day she returned to the table, making a great long train of tiles, then saying, “Choo-choo!” and watching as they fell tidily into the bucket, still making the satisfying clickety sound as they hit the other tiles. (We expanded the game later by making color patterns, stacks, and numbered trains. But no matter what we did, they ended up in the bucket!

I learned something from that little episode with Tub ‘o Tiles.

1. My plan was so much better and more enjoyable to Bella than her own plan. Because I know Bella’s temperament and personality, I knew that she would enjoy the aspect of structure and reason that I gave her in play. Both doing the game and cleaning up from the game were one and the same pleasure. It was a great plan for both of us.

God spoke to me:

Doris, my plans for you are so much better than your plans! You are the child that can only think of one impulsive thing to do with the new variations in your life, and doing it your way generally costs you in “clean up” -- but my thoughts and plans are for your highest good, and have a pleasant end.

2. Bella didn’t know my plan. My intention was for her to stop what she was doing and listen so I could reveal a better way. As an independent being, however, she could resist and refuse and keep spilling the color tiles as she chose, even though I called her name and asked her to stop.

Doris, do you see yourself in your granddaughter? Sometimes I call your name -- but you don’t turn toward me. I place obstacles in your way just so you will stop being so busy doing your own thing. I know you will benefit if you will listen to me when I reveal the plans I have for you. But Doris, I will not make you my puppet. You have the freedom to choose to listen and obey -- or not.

(Like Bella, I said I was sorry, and tears came to my eyes.)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this. Your post comes in God's perfect timing. Isn't it great how that works out? I enjoyed the unique characterization and looking at yourself in third person. It brings out a depth of field and places more passion and emotion in the writing.