Bargell: What’s ‘on time’ anyway?
I have followed the ongoing discussion in the Daily’s Summit Up column regarding the National Velvet logo thinking how great it is to live in a community where such issues can arouse debate. Really, it’s fun to have fun with simple things, especially when larger issues loom. For any of you who may have missed it, Summit Up waxed philosophic about what the NV logo might represent. I will go out on a limb here and agree that the moniker is indeed an iron, albeit either very abstract or very old. Many of you may remember irons, those things that get really hot that (some) people historically used to make them look less disheveled – back before the scruffy look was in.
When the kids were small, we bought them a miniature cleaning kit (sadists that we are), complete with a kid-sized broom, dustpan and assorted other cleaning items. Clearly, this early exposure resulted in the development of a childhood onset allergy to cleaning – but that’s an issue for a different day. Among the items was a toy-sized iron. Our youngest was perplexed by this strange implement, asking me what it was. I casually responded that it was an iron – you know, that thing we use to make our clothes all neat. The explanation was met with a blank stare and I quickly realized that she had never actually seen mommy use an iron – or, well, actually seen an iron in our household. While I could have felt bad about my failure because I had not yet handed down this skill set, I decided instead to view the moment as her first step toward liberation.
We had a similar conversation in the same time frame when I was pressing the kids to get ready for library story time. “Hurry up” I hollered “don’t you want to be ‘on time?'” Turns out they had no idea what I was talking about, as our littlest once again looked up innocently and asked “Mommy, what’s ‘on time?'” Several friends, who think I practice at being late, thought there was humor in her inquiry. And, while I don’t advocate either ironing or tardiness, I do recognize that being late is a bad example to set, and that it really stresses the kids. Moreover, it’s disrespectful to others who are on time.
I want to take to heart the great advice contained in a book I received from a friend titled, “Things I Want my Daughters to Know” by Alexandra Stoddard. She devotes an entire chapter to the subject “Don’t be on Time, Be Early,” explaining how punctuality is a gift to give our children, and that we can “dignify our sense of connectedness with others by giving every event ample time and space.” To me the question was a wake up call – clear evidence that I was not doing my best to honor and celebrate the events that comprise the fabric of our lives.
Questions come up when a child is not familiar with a concept. Recently, during some of the historic recounts of the 9/11 tragedy, one of the kids asked me point blank “what’s a terrorist?” You see, they were barely born when the towers tumbled, so the event and its repercussions are vague historical notes to them. Not surprisingly, this question was more troubling. It’s difficult for me, let alone a 9-year-old, to understand why anyone would kill themselves in order to kill and hurt others. I found it painful to find an adequate response.
All of these questions and their context got me thinking. It’s my hope that if our kids have kids, certain things will be so far removed from their reality that they will have gone the way of an iron (at least in our household). And that it will be only in a history lesson when a child asks “Mommy, what is cancer?” or “Daddy, what’s hatred?” If they also ask “what’s a vacuum cleaner?” that too would elicit a large grin from grandma.
Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member, real estate and natural resources lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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