Today, my older daughter started first grade, and ended a summer that had deteriorated into hours of her watching tv, fighting with her younger sister, and repeating “I’m bored” many times a day. I worried that she would balk at getting ready to go this morning, but when I woke, she was already dressed with hair combed, beaming and excited.
Last week we started reading the first book in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series, Little House in the Big Woods. It was one of my favorites as a girl, but I think my daughter loves it even more. I think of her as often too tuned into technology, but after hearing the story of a little girl who lived in a cabin in the woods with no electricity, running water, supermarket, books, or toys other than a simple corn-cob doll, she wanted to replicate that life in our house. Suddenly she wanted to live by candlelight, make her own toys, and go to sleep at dusk after we finished one of the long chapters. (Inspired by her anti-technology trend, Jeff and I decided to make our own small change too: no computers after 8 p.m. We are both avid readers attracted to the endless library that is the internet, so this should be an interesting experiment.)
I love the title poem of Donald Illich’s chapbook “Rocket Children,” an imaginative take on launching our children into the world. Here’s an excerpt:
On the appropriate day we’d wheel
our children into backyards, kiss them,
salute their bravery. They remember
their coordinates. All that’s left is
to gasp in awe as they leave the earth,
pat ourselves on the back for the life
we’ve delivered to the universe.
They’ll discover more than we ever did
on this planet after hundreds of years
surviving, always looking for a way up.