Adventure Graham

Snippets of Graham family adventures in faithfulness

Tag: parenting

Life at 5 1/2

By Elizabeth

Today was Q’s 1st day of school (year 1, aka US kindergarten)…    You may have felt like he just started school here, and he did, but that was just the bonus term. Summer vacation is over. This is a brand new year, new class, and new teacher!

Peals of laughter rang out from the bottom bunk. “I’m so glad he wrote that. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be laughing so hard right now,” Q gasped between fits of giggles.

I had just read, “Spin, Silkworm, spin, you great fat lazy brute. Faster, faster, or we’ll throw you to the sharks,” from James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. The words struck Q as absolutely hilarious!

My boys and the Graham Fam Sandcastle

This blog post is really just for me. Life at 5 ½ just deserves to be captured. I want to be sure to remember these moments. Statements that make us laugh out loud. Statements that make us want to laugh out loud but necessitate that we turn away and compose ourselves before redirecting our little person like the dutiful parents we are. And ones that make us cringe and think, “Ouch! We sure hope we are doing something right.”

Sand Angel

We were watching The Greatest Showman in the movie theater a few weeks ago. It wasn’t my first choice of a movie for Q, but we had just finished a week of teen camp, it was blazing hot, and we were desperate for an activity that involved sitting in cool air. Since most buildings in NZ are not air conditioned, the movie theater seemed to be the only obvious choice.

In the movie, Phillip Carlyle and Anne Wheeler sing a duet to trapeze choreography. As the song ends with Carlyle and Wheeler in a quiet embrace, Q exclaimed loud enough for all to hear, “I thought this movie was supposed to be about a circus.”

Well, yes, there is that…

But it wasn’t a total loss. Just a couple of scenes later, as P.T. Barnum is singing “From Now On,” Q quipped, “This guy is so creative. He thinks of a song for everything!”

I mean, the music was phenomenal, but the most entertaining part of watching the movie for us was viewing it through the eyes of the 5 ½ year old.

Honestly, Q was fascinated with the song-for-everything-style of the musical, which isn’t the least bit surprising since Q’s life is a musical of his own design. He has a song for everything. He has been great at rhyming since he could string words together, so making up songs is a natural progression. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, he was assembling his wooden train tracks independently on the living room floor and singing to himself. The words were to the tune of ‘Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer.’

 

“Q…. the P…… Graham     (insert: first, middle and last name)

Had a very great brain

And if you ever saw it

You would say he knows everything.”

 

So, maybe we need to work on humility? At least we can celebrate the self-confidence.

Conquering McLaren Falls… This was right before he slipped and stuck his foot in the river. Never mind, he just took his shoes and socks off and hiked out barefoot like a true kiwi.

At 5 ½, Q has no end of ideas and he’s constantly putting them into motion. He spent several mornings over the past few weeks turning a refrigerator box into a fire truck. He instructed Jaron where to cut and asked me to get his paint, but Q alone was responsible for creating, painting and attaching all the parts including, the lights, the grill, and the signs on the sides.

Firetruck in progress

He can rally a group of adults (grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles… you name it) to whatever cause strikes his fancy at the moment. Last week, he rallied his two uncles (including one who absolutely despises the cold) to begin fervently praying now that it will snow a lot when we’re in America on home assignment next winter (North American winter, that is). Never mind that it’s still a year away. The uncle who most despises the cold agreed to it with the condition that Q would help him build a snow fort. Q one-upped the request and has promised that they will build an igloo, saying, “I know how to build an igloo. I haven’t ever built one before, but I know how.”

Causes are Q’s thing. He’s an environmental activist in the making, obsessed with litter and pollution and helping us think constantly about ways to further reduce our waste. We don’t take a walk or bike ride without picking up trash. Q’s current goal is to be an FBI man who searches out people who pollute the earth.

Q started a brand-new school year today. While he thrives at school, he said he wasn’t looking forward to it. He has great friends and voluntarily helps the teachers on duty, but he claims he’d rather eat large and leisurely breakfasts, read lots and lots of books, pursue his latest passion, and go on adventures with his parents.

At the top of Mt. Maunganui, Tauranga

You know… the ice cream eating, playing at the beach type adventures. Not too many hiking adventures, mind you. Last week, we took a couple of days for holiday and took Q on two rather strenuous hikes within 48 hours of each other. We love hiking as a family, but the morning following the second hike, he rubbed his calves and said, “My legs just hurt right here. I thought it was because I was up so early in the morning before I normally get up, but I would surely be awake by now. It’s not even early.” When we explained how building muscles works, his scowl over the mild discomfort a couple of hikes caused was monumental. Oops! Parenting fail? Nah.

And, lest you’re concerned that he thinks a little too highly of his parents. Never fear. In the midst of a lengthy and detailed outline of one of Q’s new ideas, I attempted to provide direction for some of his thought processes. Not to be deterred, Q burst out angrily with, “Mommy! I am a genius at this, and you are tearing up my genius.”  See comment about humility above.

After I turned to the window to regain my composure and stopped shaking from suppressed laughter, we revisited the often-discussed topic of listening and speaking respectfully to our parents.

Always curious… 😉

Each night, after we’ve fished our family prayers and I’ve finished my story telling or reading and kissed the 5 ½ year old good night, it’s Jaron’s turn with a story. If it was up to Q, the story-telling routine would go on for hours. Q gives Jaron some suggestions for the super hero stories they’ve been making up of late. In the Graham household, the Hulk is afraid of big dogs. But best of all is that Thor likes to play practical jokes on Ironman by dropping his hammer on Ironman’s foot when Ironman is taking a nap. That one earns belly laughs every time.

Watching the cruise ships leave harbor

And that, folks, is life at 5 ½.

 

Parting Shot

A view from Mt. Maunganui

A Page Out of Grandpa’s Book

By Elizabeth

 

We’re all enjoying the benefits of Jaron’s parents visiting for a few weeks… projects getting completed around the house… laundry magically washed, hung out to dry, and neatly folded on a regular basis… the best kind of childcare… belly laughter and high pitched squeals of joy… an impromptu trip to the beach…. special treats to taste. We have been grateful for the opportunity to share our new world with them, for their willingness to be explorers with us, and most of all for their love and support.

These days have reminded me of some reflections I had several weeks ago when we were at youth camp. They still apply.

Q walked hand in hand with Neville Bartle, our District Superintendent, down the hill and across the grass toward the beach. It was sprinkling lightly, but he was chatting all the way. My giddy feeling of relief was quickly followed by a twinge of guilt. It has been a challenging season for the parents in our house. And for the 3-year-old as well.

I’ve heard little people in this age category described as threenagers or threenados. Both seem fitting.

Tantrums appearing out of nowhere. Meltdowns over the silliest things. Lack of body control. So many necessary consequences for disrespectful words, disobedient actions, and straight up defiance.

More than once, Jaron and I have looked at each other and shrugged in confusion over a little body that had crumpled to the floor in tears and frustration over something we were failing to understand.

“Next time it’s time to go to the park, I’m not going to want to go!”

“Next time I can have a special treat, I’m not going to!”

“I don’t want to do anything fun!”

“I’m not going to play with any friends!”

“Can you help me choose my clothes… No, don’t help me with my clothes. Go out!!”

“Get out of here, Brother! I am not going to play with you!” He doesn’t have a brother. Or a sister.

Real words in the midst of anger, tears, and self-imposed (and sometimes parent-imposed) time-outs in the bedroom. The emotions have erupted out of nowhere on days when he’d had plenty of sleep, healthy food to eat, more than adequate attention, and numerous opportunities to do something fun and engaging. Remove any one of those factors and the volcanic activity skyrockets to hazardous levels.

By the time we watched Q skip off with Neville at camp that day, we were exhausted. A few minutes of a reprieve felt like a gift.

Q returned from his adventure full of tales of fishing for Nemo with sticks they’d found, soccer game play-by-plays, shells they’d gather to use as digging tools in the sand, embellished versions of the 3 Little Pigs, and a cute little rhyme he has repeated numerous times.

The reprieve from Mommy had been a gift for him too, it seemed.

I reflected on the way kids need grandparent-types—biological or otherwise— to shower them with undivided attention, spoil them with things or activities that seem like treats, and give into the rapidly changing whims of a small child. But my reflections quickly turned inward. Two whole hours without a whine, a complaint, or a crumpled-on-the-floor-crying-fit. Two. Whole. Hours. It seemed impossible. What was I missing?

The next morning as the two wandered off again for adventures only known to them, it hit me. The footsteps. They were slow. They were careful. They were wandering here, then there. My footsteps are quick, direct, and purposeful. These two walked exactly side-by-side. How often did I walk 10 steps ahead, calling back over my shoulder, “Come on, Honey. Walk a little faster, Buddy?”

Sometimes slow footsteps aren’t an option. Sometimes my child needs to be hurried out the door if we’re ever going to get out the door at all. Sometimes 3 year olds and adolescents alike just lose it.

But what about the other times? What if I slowed my steps wayyyy down? What if I didn’t watch the clock on my phone? What if when I shared our To Do list with him I didn’t put a time frame on it in my mind? What if I took a page out of Grandpa’s book?

I put it to the test one day when we didn’t have a mum’s group or kindy hampering our schedule. We had three errands to run at three different locations: buy a birthday gift and a thank you gift, purchase 7 items at the grocery store, purchase 3 items at the bulk bin store. It would involve getting in and out of the car three times. It would probably push the 12:30 lunchtime boundary. If disaster struck, the last one could be postponed.

I armed myself with snacks and the determination to take it slow. Even our departure time was delayed by a shared snack before we left. Even though I always pack snacks when we leave the house, we’d really be testing Q’s internal I’m-hungry-and-I-need-to-eat-lunch-bell.

We slowly walked the length of the mall to find what we were in search of. Q perused every toy, pushed every lever, felt every stuffed animal, and commented on every action figure before settling on a game and a book for the birthday gift. We walked across the parking lot to the book store, slowly, while he munched on raw cashews out of a Tupperware container. I declined when he asked if we could ride the carousel. He conceded. We talked about our favorite horses on it as we walked by slowly. At the bookstore, we searched out the other half of the birthday gift by plopping on the floor to read half a dozen books, look for hidden pictures, and re-read the gift book just to be sure. Errand #1—gift buying–accomplished. 1 hour 45 minutes. No tantrums. No whining. Time consuming. Miraculous.

The you’re-teetering-on-the-brink-of-lunchtime-alarm was going off in my head, but we headed to the grocery store. 30 minutes. Boom. I can handle that. In a world where we’re still navigating a new-to-us grocery store and new-to-us food products, that was a win for everyone.

Errand #3 proved to be easy. The bulk bin food store carries his favorite granola which we were planning to buy. We thanked the store owner and climbed in the car. As I pulled into the driveway, I realized I was tired, but not harried. I felt accomplished and peaceful. We accomplished our To Do list. And we enjoyed it. We enjoyed each other.

There are plenty of days when it isn’t possible for three “short” errands to take three hours. But there are a few days when they can—when I can match my steps and my pace to a three-foot-tall person who is busily exploring his world, wondering about how the carousel works, and requesting that every book be read aloud.

There are hours when tantrums happen. Out of the blue. For no reason. And, there are times when my slower steps and less-hurried persona cultivate peace in my little person. And I am reminded to take a page out of Grandpa’s book just a little more often.

 

Parting Shot

Hamilton Gardens is always one of my favorite places to visit, especially when they open cool new gardens and structures.

Hamilton Gardens is always one of my favorite places to visit, especially when they open cool new gardens and structures.

Conversations about Death (by Jaron and Quentin)

Bedtime stories before bedtime prayers, cuddles and conversations.

Bedtime stories before bedtime prayers, cuddles and conversations.

“Daddy,” Q asked, “Are you going to die while I’m still alive, because Geen (my grandma) died while I was still alive?”

This was one of many questions Q asked as we lay in his bed at Great Aunt Nana’s (Q’s name for my aunt) way past his bedtime last Wednesday night. He had been crying and I had gone in to comfort him. When I lay down beside him the questions began to flow.

“Daddy, Mommy said Great Aunt Nana has some pictures of my Papa (my grandpa), can I look at them later?”

“Daddy, why do people have to die?”

“Daddy, if Geen is resting with Jesus why can I not see her and Jesus?”

To be honest, death has seemed really close this week. Last Monday, Rachel Maxwell who served as a sponsor in youth group when Elizabeth was a teenager died of cancer six weeks after her initial diagnosis. She left a husband and three children and a whole lot of friends and family behind. Really, why do young moms die?

A few days later we received word that John Burton, a family friend whose son was in our junior high youth group while I was in seminary died of a massive heart attack. The news was a complete shock. Here is a godly and healthy man who just moments before was fine. He has left behind a grieving widow, two sons, and three young grandchildren. Really, why do good and godly men die?

Indeed there are seasons in life when death seems close. This has obviously been the case for us this past week, and I think Q, with his sweet and intuitive nature, has sensed what is going on. His three year old mind is trying to come to grips with this scary thing called death. Death, the thing that awaits us all, and yet the thing we try the most to ignore and hold at bay. We don’t like to think about it or talk about it more than we absolutely have to. But Q is willing to ask the questions that we are all silently struggling with.

So back to our conversation.

“Daddy, are you going to die while I’m still alive?”

What can I say to that? I told him the truth…the whole truth. I told him about the brokenness of this world and explained that death is part of that, that death is not at all what God intended for us. I told him that chances are I will die before him, and that hopefully it would be a long time from now. I told him that ultimately we will all die, but that as followers of Christ, when we die we will rest with Jesus, and that someday we will all be raised to new life again.

So no matter how long I or Mommy or even Q lives, there will come a day when we are all once again alive in Christ in His fully come Kingdom. On that day there will be no more death, and not only will we be together but we will see more than Great Aunt Nana’s pictures of Papa, we will see Papa in the flesh.

One of our favorite pictures of Jaron, Q, and Papa.

One of our favorite pictures of Jaron, Q, and Papa on Papa’s tractor, which you better believe, Q loves.

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