Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Ok, first off?  Don’t judge me for taking this picture, let alone using it in a blog post.  Yes, this is Alex, falling off his bike.  I’m starting to read The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel, and maybe I’m taking a BIT too literally??  {p.s.  that book is a must read if you haven’t already picked it up!!!!}

Anyhow, Matt was away all weekend on the junior high ski trip…yes, he got PAID to hang out with sweet and cute middle schoolers and SKI.  Rough life.  Anyhow, I had the boys for the weekend and thanks to Grandma Lei Lei and Macho Pop, was able to attend a 2 year birthday party for two dear munchkins, sans Drew.  Then I was SUPER blessed to go to my friend’s wedding shower without EITHER boy!

Next, after a *slumber party* with the boys in one room together {cue sappy music to try to cover up the stressful soundtrack due to my lack of sleep}, we trekked off to First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley.  What a great morning.  Seeing friends, that are truly family to us, even in quick passing!, was an immense treat.  Having the kids in childcare allowed me to listen to a phenomenal sermon, worry free, and then join Kerry and Leila for Learning Community and delve into Colossians 1:15-23.  PHEW…good stuff.  THEN…as if that wasn’t treat enough, I had the immense privilege of having lunch with Janet Labberton and pump her for info on how to survive the life of being a pastor’s wife, mom and educator.  Seriously.  A blur of activity, only possible due to family, and WOW, much better than sitting at home with both boys, alone all weekend!  Now, to recuperate!

Anyhow, we got home yesterday and Alex immediately wanted to get his fire truck car (we call it the pope mobile due to its shape and structure!) and hit the road.  I kept hearing him say something under his breath about “meeting those kids out there” and “telling them my name”.  I was feeding Drew and a bit distracted, but all of a sudden, I looked out and saw this….

And then this…

This one cracked me up.  We got a Alex a bike for Christmas which he’s pretty much refused to ride.  And then I noticed he’d gone and gotten it out (don’t worry, Grandmas, I sent him back in to get his helmet!) and was attempting to ride it, just like all the other bigger kids.  I was seriously hyperventilating.  Excited.  Nervous.  Watching him.  The whole range of mom emotions.  And after having a little trouble (see picture from the top of this post….), I noticed our neighbor, J.T., helping Alex out–

I happened to be talking to my Mom on the phone at the same time and she can vouch for how much I was almost cooing in excitement.  Before my own eyes, I was watching my munchkin step out, play with other kids, and make a space for himself.

As you can see, he was just a little bit excited and involved….full speed run, Alex!

I was trying to make dinner and take care of teething Drewske, so I kept going back and forth from the kitchen to the front room to check on Alex.  But continually was pleasantly surprised that the whole neighborhood was just kind of looking out for each other and including all the kids (even Alex who was clearly the youngest and  a new addition to the posse).

As a recreation major (feel free to throw your slurs at me now….) we learned about, wrote about, reported about the value of play.  When I was growing up, as I’m sure was true for many of you, play, many times unsupervised, was the crux of our free time.  We could roam the street, go to each other’s houses, make forts, draw and create, all without the direct instruction of an adult.  This has changed so drastically for our society, just 30 years later.  Maybe that’s why I kept biting my fingernails and peering out through the blinds to make sure Alex was doing ok.

If you haven’t yet happened upon Last Child in the Woods:  Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv, please make the effort to get a copy.

This book addresses “the staggering divide between children and the outdoors, [as] child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation—he calls it nature-deficit—to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.”  It is truly a life-changing, phenomenal read.  Knowing the facts, however, doesn’t always equate to being able to push your kid out to engage with others, to get outside and to PLAY.  So in all honesty, watching Alex enter into that neighborhood street time truly brought tears to my eyes.

And so when he fell down off the bike, rather than running out to help him, I tried to remember what Mogel has also been teaching me in The Blessing of a Skinned Knee.  She shares reminders and methods to work on raising compassionate,  but self-reliant children.  Maybe I left Alex out there to fend for himself because I was LITERALLY unable to get up since I was nursing Drew, but there was a piece of intentionality in it.

Drew, enjoying his new blanket from Auntie Kendra…perfect for the needy teether.

As we have made this move to Sunnyvale, one of the by products and goals was to become part of a community, neighborhood-wise and church-wise, that would be a foundation for Alex.  We had that at the Woods in certain ways, but it was a more isolated and made day-to-day “kid” community a bit harder to come by.  It has been an incredible gift to sit back and watch it begin to happen here.  I guess I ultimately have my kids’ just SLIGHTLY extroverted personality to thank too.  I’ll keep you posted on the happenings of Vine Avenue and whether this trend of playing in the street continues.  Let’s just hope I don’t start hearing lots of car alarms as Alex unintentionally rides his bikes into the neighbor’s vehicles!  DANGER!

Alex decorating his new DANGER helmet on his 3rd Birthday, May 2010, and sporting the new look.


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