#1: I will teach your child how to play with fire. Learning to control one of the most elemental forces in nature is a pivotal moment in any child’s personal history. Whether we remember it or not, it’s the first time we really get control of one of these mysterious things. From playing with fire, your child may learn some basic principles about fire (hopefully not including first aid), about intake, about combustion, about exhaust. These are the three working elements of fire that you have to have to have a good controlled fire. You can think of the open-pit fire as a laboratory. You don’t know what they’re going to learn from playing with it. I will let them fool around with it on their own terms and trust me, they’re going to learn things that you can’t get out of playing with Dora the Explorer toys.
#2: I will have your child own a pocketknife. Pocketknives are kind of drifting out of our cultural consciousness, which I think is a terrible thing. Your first pocketknife is like the first universal tool that you’re given. You know, it’s a spatula, it’s a pry bar, it’s a screwdriver and it’s a blade. A lot of cultures give knives as soon as they’re toddlers. My grandfather bought me bracelets with my name on it. Nope it wasn’t even cool back then, either. (sorry grandpa). It shows that kids can develop an extended sense of self through a tool at a very young age. I will lay down a couple of very simple rules — always cut away from your body, keep the blade sharp, never force it — and these are things kids can understand and practice with. And yeah, they’re going to cut themselves. I have some terrible scars on my legs from where I stabbed myself and one major one from using an axe and nearly cut off a toe (sorry about that Mom). But you know, grandkids are young. They heal fast.
#3: I will definitely have your child throw a spear. It turns out that our brains are actually wired for throwing things and, like muscles, if you don’t use parts of your brain, they tend to atrophy over time. But when you exercise them, any given muscle adds strength to the whole system and that applies to your brain too. So practicing throwing things has been shown to stimulate the frontal and parietal lobes, which have to do with visual acuity, 3D understanding, and structural problem solving, so it gives a sense — it will help develop their visualization skills and their predictive ability. And throwing is a combination of analytical and physical skill, so it’s very good for that kind of whole-body training. This kind of target-based practice also helps develop attention and concentration skills and just in case your kids will be 6’5 in high school, this activity will teach them the skill of shooting hoops which was my plan for my kids to pay for my retirement except I didn’t count on having sports-challenged kids. (It wasn’t my fault, blame their mother.)
#4: I must have them deconstruct appliances. There is a world of interesting things inside my dishwasher and frankly anything else that works. Next time when I am about to throw out an appliance, your child will take it apart (it will be unplugged, I promise). Even if I don’t know what the parts are, together we will begin puzzling out what they might be because it is a really good practice for grand kids to get a sense that they can take things apart, and no matter how complex they are, they can understand parts of them and that means that eventually, they can understand all of them. It’s a sense of knowability, that something is knowable. So these black boxes that we live with and take for granted are actually complex things made by other people and besides the recycling center doesn’t care what shape they are in when we drop them off (speaking of the appliances, not kids). It’s putting it back together that may be an issue because neither one of us know what we just did.
#5: They will learn the value of two-parter. In other words, we will break the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. There are laws beyond safety regulations that attempt to limit how we can interact with the things that we own — in this case, digital media. It’s a very simple exercise. We buy a song on ITunes, write it to a CD, then rip the CD to an MP3 and play it on your very same computer. We’ve just broken a law and it’s your child’s first arrest record. Check mark that off your bucket list. Technically the RIAA can come and persecute you. It’s an important lesson for a child to understand that some of these laws get broken by accident and that laws have to be interpreted. Plus we will learn the value of choosing the right activity that will pay us back for all of efforts.
Bonus: Since as you know, I am kinda of the “walk on the edge kinda guy”, I will drive a car with my grandchildren. This is a great stage for any kid. This happens about the same time that they get latched onto things like dinosaurs, these big things in the outside world that they’re trying to get a grip on. A car is a similar object, and they can get in a car and drive it. So, to keep it legal because lawyers fees are to expensive for me now that I am on a fixed income thanks to OBAMA, oops did I say that out loud? We will find a big empty lot and make sure there’s nothing in it and it’s on private property, and I will let them drive my car. It’s very safe actually. And it’s fun for the whole family especially in the winter time.
In short, now that I am a grandpa, I am willing to take more risks with myself and your child and be a little more of me and a little less worrisome about what is going on with my grandchildren so I would suggest thinking twice about using me as a babysitter…. and yep, … I think that’s it.