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Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Best Gift

  By Jan Pease

The holidays always remind us of family who are no longer with us, and we especially remember my husband’s mother, Elsie, who was born December 23, 1911.  In her lifetime she saw many of the great events of the 20th century.  She lived through two world wars and many military actions and conflicts.  She remembered the Great Depression very well.  Elsie saw the introduction of the wonders of electricity, radios, television, flight, space travel and computers, dishwashers and tv remotes. 

Two days short of 101 years after Elsie’s birth, her great-grandson Andrew came into our world.  I think that makes him my great nephew.   The world he will grow up in is so different   from hers.   There are so many more people in our world, an estimated 7.06 billion compared to only 1.6 billion people in 1900.  Thanks to technology, our world seems much smaller.  Elsie worked at a switchboard in a telephone office back in the day when the operator actually connected the callers.  We saw our first pictures of Andrew on a smart phone and on Facebook.  

But some things are the same.  Babies need time and love and patience.  They need tummy time. They need skin to skin, face to face contact.  They learn the most from their first teachers, parents who love them.

Have you seen a small child tap a book to see what will open?  It’s so cute, but I cringe when I see a child do that, even if mobile technology is the way of the future.  I believe that children need to be exposed to books, to learn how to hold a book and to turn a page.   They need to hear songs and stories in mom’s or dad’s voice, and enjoy the feeling of cuddling together with a bedtime story.   They need to ask what and why again and again.  They need our presence. 

Rosemary Wells, the famous creator of Max and Ruby and other memorable characters, has a wonderful website,   Besides activities and information, Ms. Wells included the texts of  a speech she gave, “Children at Risk,” in 1998.  The message is just as important today.   Ms. Wells said,  “A mother, taking time every day, to read a book aloud to her child, is giving her baby the gift of thought and language.  Reading often, starting young, a father gives his child a whole world of his own to dream. Parents who read to their children are giving of themselves, of their time. By not saying “I’m too  tired, I’m too busy, I want to do something else,”  they are giving love. They are giving their voice, their patience and more important than anything they are giving pure love."

 Great-grandma Elsie’s birthday was always lost in the hubbub of Christmas preparation when she was a child. We always tried to celebrate her birthday in her later years.   I don’t worry about little Andrew.   He is so wanted and so loved already that the only danger is that we will spoil him.  The McDuff stories by Rosemary Wells would be the perfect 1st birthday gift! 

 And if you are sharing an iPad with your child, read the story with them now and then so they can hear that story in your voice.