By the time things start going without saying, they’ve long been taken for granted.
Crawling has become unacceptable to Crimson and Clover.
My 1.5 year-old daughters have mastered matching waddles and have no interest in going back to an all-fours mode of transportation.
Their older brother played an enthusiastic part in teaching them how to crawl. His lessons were styled with a robust demonstrative approach, pouring a heavy and jubilant dose of positive reinforcement every time they advanced an inch.
As soon as they mastered the art, his pride swelled him into a sage, ready to teach them everything else he knows. He’s moved quickly to more advanced studies. Thanks to him, Clover knows how to play hide and seek now. She’ll cover her eyes, squawk a few times, and look for her brother who will graciously hide close enough to plain sight to set her up for success.
Recently, he’s focused his adorably impressive teaching chops on helping them learn how to talk. So far, the only words he’s managed to consistently coax out of them is ‘Duck-duck’ and ‘Quack-quack.’ It’s an interesting vernacular to bestow, but an impressive feat for a three-year-old professor to accomplish.
I’m wary of his effectiveness because he’ll be teaching them how to hide remotes and jump off couches soon enough; that will be equally impressive but significantly less adorable.
To his sister’s, his wisdom goes without saying. They see him as an oracle whose wisdom knows no bounds. He’s been here twice as long as they have and is entirely engaged in passing his knowledge along. It’s a role he’s happy to play and he’s grabbing that opportunity by the horns. It’s easy to assume that engagement is fueled by his love for his sisters, but enough evidence exists to suggest he’s also fueled by a love for the way things have always been done. Specific toys are played with specific ways. Specific games have specific rules.
Kids teach younger kids under the same authority locals teach newcomers. Those teachings are rinsed with personal interpretations and recycled as the taught become the teachers. Younger kids become older kids, newcomers become locals, and the values and skills instilled in them are the values and skills they instill in others.
In small towns like ours, those teachings spread rapidly enough to shape shared understandings of how things are done and any sign of change brings romanticized memories of the way things used to be.
What we’re up to now is what our kids will be calling the way things have always been done. Whatever they tell each other is on us.
We’re the ones putting their town’s past together.
Proactively reminiscing on the good old days we’re currently living in, is a helpful path towards questioning whether we’re doing what we want them to reflect on.
How engaged are we in creating the foundation our communities will build on? How enthusiastically are we teaching our kids and newcomers? How robust is our positive reinforcement?
In 40 years, one of my kids might circulate a petition to slow down your kid’s food truck pursuit. One of your kids might rally against a multiplex one of my kid’s spent years pushing through a referendum. A bunch of other kids will enthusiastically side with each of our kids.
All of those kids are awesome because siding on an issue means being engaged in a community. We want them to look back on us and see that heartfelt, gusto-heavy rabblerousing is how things have always been done. Our actions will one day be archived.
When those archives are read, I hope we give the impression that we were enthusiastic about the direction we were heading in and passionate in our disagreements about which way to turn the wheel. Show up to council meetings. Question your elected officials. Join boards, committees, foundations and societies. Take advantage of the countless volunteer opportunities available to you. Let’s make our kids’ history fascinating and worth repeating.