Sunday, July 31, 2011

If You Build It, They Will Come

Last week my sister and 4 year-old-nephew were in town visiting for a few days.  I’m not a mom and don’ t know much about kids, but in an effort to make my sister’s life easier and my nephew’s life more fun, I bought him snorkeling gear and a sandcastle building set prior to their arrival.  The snorkeling gear didn’t go over that well, but the sandcastle set was a huge hit…I mean huge.
We spent the first day together at the beach and enjoyed our day swimming and reading by the water, while my sister and nephew went for a nice long walk along the coast.  After taking a lengthy swim, I decided that I wanted to spend some quality time with my nephew, so I grabbed our sandcastle building set and yelled for my nephew to come join me to begin our quest for the best sandcastle a 4 year-old and a motherless 33 year-old could make. 
However, it didn’t take long for me to quickly learn that the world of a 4 year-old is less than organized.  In fact, I’m starting to question this whole ADD/ADHD phenomenon.  Personally, it’s been my [limited] experience that kids simply don’t have an attention span – no need to diagnosis or over-analyze this matter, it’s just the way kids are.  Either way, one minute my nephew was sitting next to me, filling a bucket with sand, and the next minute he was off trying to put on his snorkel gear or find his mother.
This left me alone, on the beach, doing the task of a 4 year-old-child.  Except I wasn’t alone for long…minutes after I had proudly built my first sandcastle tower, a flock of little girls came running to aid in my project.  There must have been 3 or 4, apparently parentless, kids that came out of nowhere when they saw me playing in the sand.  They were so eager to start helping me build this castle that they busily began shoveling sand and dumping water into the buckets we had brought.  One little girl who didn’t speak any English, plopped down right next to me and quickly became my little partner...or, more accurately, I became her little partner.  Somehow, she gently implied that she was to fill the buckets and I was to pack them tightly and flip them over to create the tower.  At this point, I was out-numbered, so I took her lead.

Of course, these children were heartbroken when it was time for me to leave.  I’d love to think that they enjoyed my company, but it was the buckets and shovels that they truly didn’t want to see go.  Conversely, I enjoyed the company of these children, and found it quite sweet that they wanted to play with me.  I felt awful when I saw their disappointed faces when I had to take away the buckets and shovels that had brought so much fun to their day.  Until the next day at the beach….
The next day we went to another beach.  This was just a short trip down to the beach before dinner, but I could tell my nephew was getting bored after a bit and my sister needed a break from him.  So, again, I called him over to build another sandcastle.  And, again, he was in and out, leaving me to tend to our project alone at times.  However, much to my surprise, another seemingly unsupervised pack of children came over to assist me in my efforts.  This was an older, English speaking crew of boys, and they meant business.  One of the boys immediately established himself as the supervisor of the situation, while 2 other boys worked diligently to get a castle wall and moat built.  Meanwhile, a 4th boy was determined to tear down the castle with his foot, and I continued to construct the towers.  No doubt, this was a tightly run operation.
Again, I had to cut our sandcastle building time short when we decided to leave.  No worries, though, this team had a back-up plan, as they had found an empty bottle to use as a means of filling up the moat, which was the last component left to complete our castle.  Needless to say, they were undeterred when I left.
I can’t help but consider how much joy these kids got out of a few buckets and some shovels and how easily entertained they would be if their parents had simply brought these few tools with them to the beach.  Clearly, these kids were starving for something creative to do when they found me, and they were more than excited to partake in building a sandcastle.  At the risk of sounding judgmental, how is it possible that these mysterious parents didn’t bring something for these poor kids to do at the beach?  I don’t get it, but selfishly I enjoyed bringing some fun and creativity to these kid's day, and it was a lot of fun to spend some "in-and-out" time with my nephew.

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