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The Jay Way

There is probably a reason that I have not chosen parenting as a theme in my life. I’ve not much confidence in this area and, frankly, I have always been just a bit afraid of children. Afraid of saying the wrong things, or somehow putting the seed of some idea in their little heads that will result in years of therapy later. Of making an off-hand comment that will result in a grown up child needing to work out their fear of lawns or tea bags or picture frames.

I don’t really “get” kids. I was one, once, and that is helpful. I have tons of memories of growing up, of course, and most of them are well-worn stories about extraordinary moments of fun or perceived danger or adventure. I remember them with a writer’s eye, as if I was watching all the characters and recording the story as it unfolds, frame by frame.

Remembering the kid perspective is a whole other ballgame. It calls for me to give up the bystander perspective and be “in” the story and that feels like a rusty old tool in need of some WD 40. If I’m being entirely honest, the bystander perspective on memory gives me a ton of control. Switching perspectives, remembering how I felt in those moments, as a participant, gives me up to the gods of vulnerability. Feeling small, feet not touching the floor at the table, laughing inappropriately at my own peculiar logic, trying so hard to understand, trying not to show that I don’t understand, toughing it out (whatever it is), hanging in there and always – always – looking up at people.

Nonetheless, channeling my child of my past is helping me try to figure out the children of my present and the 1,000 ways in which I Do.Not.Understand them.

As an adult, I’ve become very wordy. Come to think of it, I think I was a pretty wordy, nerdy kid. (Others reading this blog are more qualified to comment.) I like to use words. I like to describe things. I expect other people to be able to articulate their thoughts clearly. Children have almost no practice at this and have only a fraction of the tools grown-ups have.  As adults, we ask them to “use your words” but sometimes the words aren’t there yet and nothing can be articulated with certainty. Words turn ideas into defined, black and white statements and sometimes that is just too scary for kids. Sometimes communication has to be non-verbal and thus less defined. Murkier and more open to interpretation. This adult less good at murky. Less sure about what messages I’m sending and even less sure about what I’m receiving.

However, I’m learning to open this channel up a bit wider and listen with more than my ears. Today, for example, I learned more about The Jay Way.

A few days ago, the Gull River Snow Removal crew (me, Jay and Charlotte) tackled the removal of about 15 inches of snow off our 30 x 50 foot ice rink. I started and the kids joined me shortly thereafter, which was nice. Charlotte is a bit less focused on the objective but she does not lack in enthusiasm. Jay “gets” why we need to do this and gamely started shoveling in a sort of random way. After a few moments, I pointed out to him that he would have to move the same snow all over again and I wondered if that was really what he had intended. He looked at his work and groaned a bit. Then, he removed himself to a different area of the rink, not too far away yet untouched by our shovels, and started going in straight lines across the rink. Over and over again. The same line, or so it seemed. In fact, there is no way to fully clear the snow, scraping the surface of the ice, without leaving a trail behind. So he would take a bit of snow each time, clearing up his trails from previous passes. After about 20 minutes, I realized that his ice was cleaner than mine! Not only that, his way was more efficient and well-paced than my way. So, I adopted the Jay Way of snow removal.

It was time again today to take another 10 inches off our unfortunate, as yet unskate-able rink. Poor kids – helping to shovel a rink they haven’t even used yet. What good sports. I hadn’t anticipated any assistance but, lo and behold, the Gull River Snow Removal crew arrived shortly after I started. Jay needed no direction. He started at exactly the same place he had started two days ago, with exactly the same method. Straight across the rink, not trying to take all the snow in one go. Back and forth. Making One. Neat. Row. Then, making that One. Neat. Row bigger yet even neater. When we got to the part that does not, unfortunately, take a straight line across, he created a new, symmetrical, quite artistic yet efficient pattern.

Thus, here is what I know about The Jay Way (so far):

  • I like tasks that let me make patterns.
  • I like repeating patterns and straight lines.
  • I like doing my pattern well.
  • I don’t take direct compliments very well but feel free to tell my sister that I’m doing a good job. 🙂
  • I’m not so good with direct supervision but don’t get too far away.
  • I can concentrate easily when I work alone. In fact, I enjoy concentrating this way. But feel free to distract me with an impromptu, undeclared shovel race.
  • (Also, for pete’s sake, when are we going to get to skate on this ice?!?)
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