One of the most important things we as adults can do for our children ( or grandchildren ) is listen to what they have to say. Often it is easy to put their small worlds and thoughts aside because we have more important things to worry about at the time. You may be surprised what you will hear and where a conversation with a three year old will lead if you will only take the time out of your busy day to actually listen. If you're not careful, you might even learn a thing or two .
I work long hours around my little farm trying to make sure the things that need to be taken care of get done on a timely basis to avoid costly repairs or ruined vegetables because they weren't harvested early enough. Its not really a very hard job, although there are times when things become very labor intense because the task at hand requires the effort. Several times a day it is very refreshing to come in out of the hot sun for a couple of glasses of cold water and a little time in front of the fan to cool a bit. This is part of my general routine through the summer months when I find myself working on projects from daylight until dark, just trying to get everything done that I feel needs doing for the day.
About a year ago, one of my sons and his family moved in with me due to financial problems in the economy and the fear of an uncertain future as far as we all could see. We decided that it would be beneficial to all parties involved if we made arrangements for all of us to live together for a while until things got better in the world. It was a big change from living alone for several years to having a houseful of voices to come into every day. A pleasant change that allowed me plenty of time to spend with the two grandchildren. In their short lives, they had never really had a chance to get to know their "Popa" because of the busy schedules life demands today from two working parents. It wasn't long before both children that were stand-offish at first adored and looked forward to spending time with me on a daily basis.
The younger of the two, ( Clayton ) learned to walk and say his first words that year, and developed a personality that was jovial as well as careing. Needless to say, he was saying "Popa" before he even started saying "Daddy or Moma". I believe there was a little jealously there because of his adoreing affection toward me, but what they failed to realize was, no matter how busy my day was, I always took time to speak as well as listen to what he had to say. I would offer him snacks and drinks, and even sit with him at meal time and carry on a conversation while we ate, and to this day, still have no idea what he was saying although I pretended to understand every word. His smiles and laughter were one of the highlights of my days.
Jessie on the other hand was almost three when they moved in and was already set in a routine of things she enjoyed to do everyday. I still recall some of our first conversations where her parents had to explain to me who "Dora" and "Sponge Bob" were, because she spent enormous amounts of time watching educational television and cartoons in her room. I personally think that television time should be limited for young children especially, but I also understand the importance educational television play in a childs life. She would often speak to me in Spanish she had learned on "Dora", and before I knew it, she was even talking to me in Chinese ! I used to worry that this may influence her charactor as well as dampen any creativity she may have by mimicking what she had seen on television rather than have her own thoughts. I was soon to be proven very wrong in my way of thinking. I was soon to learn that her mind was an eager sponge waiting to be filled with new thoughts and ideas.
My parents felt it was important that I spend time with my grandparents when I was only three, and would take me to their farm to spend a weekend every so often to help me learn the basics in life. Helping Granny milk the cow and churn butter were favorites, as well as feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs. Popa would let me help shuck and shell corn for the livestock, as well as help carry wood to the smokehouse where he was cureing hams and shoulders for the winter. I probably wasn't as much help as I thought at the time, but it gave me a chance to get to know them, and they were never too busy to answer any questions I may have had . Patience is a virtue when it comes to helping develope a young mind, and the things that we take for granted as "Common Knowledge" are things that have been passed down from generation to generation with patience and understanding.
After the winter passed and the weather starting getting warmer, Jessie started spending a lot of hours outdoors and was learning new things that wasn't on her television. She was amazed to find that chickens layed eggs, and was always eager to help Popa feed the chickens and look for eggs in the hen house. She became facinated with the flowers of spring that until this year, she had barely noticed before. As I spent time getting the garden ready for planting, she began to realize where fresh vegetables she enjoyed came from, and looked forward to seeing what Popa was bringing in from the garden. Digging worms to go fishing with at a nearby trout stream became an every day event because she was really very good at finding them under rocks and wet leaves. She also enjoyed helping me feed the rabbits I raise and looked forward to seeing any new arrivals that would come every couple of months. The whole while, she would ask questions and was eager to learn how everything worked. Having the patience to answer all her questions was a task in itself which required all my patience, but knowing she has a brilliant mind and any positive influence I might offer made it worth the effort.
Many of our conversations would lead off in a variety of directions, and when talking with Jessie, you never knew which direction it would take you. I would try to teach her new phrases or words and explain the meaning as best I could so she would understand. Once I told her that her behavior was "socially unacceptable" and made her stand in the corner for a few minutes until she got over her pouting. Once she calmed down, I brought her close to me and tried to explain in a calming voice why she couldn't be doing what ever it was she was doing. She seemed to understand my explaination and went about her way. It was only a few days before she disagreed with something her mother told her to do, so she stood with her legs planted firmly on the ground, placed her hands on her hips and told her mother in no uncertain terms, "Moma... Thats unacceptable ." Her mother was so shocked and dismayed at the statement, it defused the situation and instilled laughter throughout the entire household !
I suppose because I baby sat while both her parents were at work, often times she would come to me to ask permission to do something with her parents standing close by, and this one time in particular, I told her she was "barking up the wrong tree". I could tell by the puzzeled look on her face that she was unfamiliar with this term, so I explained she needed to ask her parents for permission instead of asking me when they were home. She understood, but wasn't satisfied that our conversation had ended so quickly, so she stood and looked at me very seriously and said, "Popa. You know what I've been doing?" I could tell she was in need of conversation, so I asked with all the eagerness I could muster, " What have you been doing?" No more than the words had left my mouth, she said, " I've been Cockin' my Doodle ! "
I looked toward my son that was busy stirring something on the stove and realized that he hadn't heard the conversation, so I asked her to repeat what she just said. She quickly told us both, "I've been Cockin' my Doodle ! " After my son and I had a good laugh, I asked Jessie to explain what "Cockin' my Doodle" means. Her huge smile on her face suddenly turned to a very sturn and serious look. She raised her palms skyward beside her little face and said, "You know... Cockin' my Doodle."
Needless to say, to this day I still don't know what "Cockin' my Doodle" means exactly, but it has become a favorite term of mine that I use when people ask me what I've been doing and I don't care to explain. I suppose it could mean I've been singing or working. It could mean that I'm also getting ready to perform a task. Theres' really no explaination other than the fact that I have a rooster named "Cockadoodledooster", and the term "Cockin' my Doodle" can be used to express any number of mindless tasks we perform every day. So the next time someone asks you, "What have you been up to?", and you really don't care to explain, you can look them straight in the eye with every serious bone in your body and tell them exactly what you've been doing... "I've been Cockin' my Doodle !".