A Simple Gift

Karen James

This morning Ethan had me playing a game he made up with the bubble wrap that came in a package recently. It's interesting bubble wrap. The bubbles are linked in rows by a small channel that allows the air to flow through from one bubble into the next when compressed. Ethan has been playing with this piece all week. Maybe two weeks. I'm not sure. Anyway, today he had me put my fingers on the bubbles on one side and close my eyes. He put his fingers on the other side, on the same rows I had my fingers on. One by one he gently pushed his side, and I had to guess which row he was pushing. It was subtle, but I could tell! That was surprising and delightful to me. I laughed out loud. When he pressed two rows, it was a little harder to tell. Sometimes it feels like three rows, and we talked about why that might be.

The other day Doug was telling me about a man he was talking with who was saying that his son loves to play a popular fantasy card game. The man was unhappy about all of the hours his son plays the game with his friends. He asked Doug if Ethan plays. He doesn't. We have it, but he's not interested. The man was saying to Doug that he thought it was a stupid game, and he was sad to see his son wasting all of his potential on such a trivial pursuit. Doug asked him if *he* played the game with him. The man said some variation of "No way!" Doug said he was missing out then. This wasn't the first time we've had this type of conversation with parents. It's not surprising.

Both Doug and I have spent hundreds of hours playing all kinds of games with Ethan. Board games, card games, video games, dice games, pretend games, word games, silly games, complicated games, indoor games and outdoor games. Not one moment was a waste of time. Not one game was stupid. Not one bit of energy spent playing was a waste of potential. Every single moment of Ethan playing, whether together with Doug and I, alone, or with friends has led to a bigger world of possibilities, where one new discovery, one new thought, one new strategy, one new observation, one new improvement, one new moment shared wove its way into the delicate web of learning that has become a large part of how Ethan experiences and sees the world.

Today, with the bubble game Ethan made up, I was reminded that there are simple, little, wonderful discoveries hidden in surprising places. Nothing any one of us freely chooses to do is a waste of time or potential. Standing on the sidelines saying it is, is a waste of that and so much more. It's a waste of a chance to really get to know the person we love. Because when we neglect to see the worth in something that has captured the imagination of someone we care for, we neglect to see an important part of who that person is.

There's little so sweet and grounding to me as being loved for who I am and appreciated for all I choose to spend my time doing. If we want our children to really know what that feels like too, we should stop standing on the sidelines, and start joining in. It's a simple gift we can all give to our children that will have the potential to last a lifetime.

Karen James
on her facebook page
September 28, 2015


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