It was August, 1976. My husband, Simon, my daughter, Simone, my dog, Lucky, and I were just about to leave our apartment in Brooklyn to spend a year at the American Academy in Rome. At the time we didn’t realize that the year would be extended to almost three years. Just before we left, my friend Connie stopped by with a gift for Simone. In addition to a lovely picture book, she also gave her a portable transistor radio. For my almost four year old daughter, this radio was an exciting new possession and she couldn’t wait until we arrived in Rome so that she could play it all by herself.
After what seemed like an incredibly long trip to Rome (our dog had to be sedated and she nervously chomped on my finger when I gave her a piece of hot dog with a pill inside of it, my husband got a major toothache while we were on the plane and calmed the pain with many glasses of Scotch, Simone realized she could get as much soda as she wanted from the lovely stewardess and I was so exhausted that I didn’t put a stop to her increasing sugar high) we finally arrived in Rome! When we got to our apartment in Monteverde Vecchio, Simon and I were eager to take a nap and Simone was eager to turn on her new radio. We left her in her charming bedroom, went into our bedroom and immediately fell asleep until…
There was a wail of horror coming from Simone and we rushed in to see what the problem was. “My radio! Somethings wrong! It’s an American radio and it’s talking Italian!” Her world was crumbling. She was in a new country, a new apartment, a new bedroom without all of her toys from home and now to make everything unbearable, her radio didn’t know how to talk right! Her almost four year old world seemed to be falling apart.
This memory returned to me while I was thinking about the children who were confined to their apartments or, if they were lucky, their yards, not able to play with their friends, wisked away quickly from their teachers and classmates, living in a world where people’s faces were covered with masks and where they had to keep a social distance whenever they did get the opportunity to go outside.
One thing that I’m certain of. This is not the time to worry about children falling behind. I’ll write more about this idea of children falling behind in another blog post. It is a time for everyone in the house to respect and comfort each other. Children need respect and comfort and parents need the same!
In an upcoming post, I’ll write about how giving children time to be bored can lead to some wonderful discoveries and creations. I’ll also write about how parents can support children’ in developing higher-order thinking by chosing questions and observations carefully. I’ll also write about the difference between play and playful. These are important distinctions to recognize.
I encourage parents to have confidence that their children are always developing and learning. Watch them as they use their powers of investigation and imagination to figure out what they can do with that plain empty box that you were going to toss into the recycle bin. Is it play? Is it learning?
“Play is the work of the child.” – Maria Montessori