The world slows down when you walk with a four-year-old. While visiting in Hawaii, my granddaughter and I fell into the habit of walking to the nearby koi ponds each morning. The walk to the ponds was always full of anticipation and purpose. We’d practice the meaning of the word opposite as we took different routes around a tree. She’d discuss our changing shadows, the wind that blew her hair forward, the blossoms that had fallen, and which pool was close (the colder one) or which was far (the warmer one).
Once at the Koi ponds, a worker would suspend her janitorial duties at 9:30 to feed the fish. As she distributed food to any nearby children, she became our teacher—and our friend. My granddaughter learned the meaning of the posted sign: Do not throw coins into the pond. They are harmful to the fish. We learned to recognize the signs of damage on the Koi from rock throwing by mean-spirited kids. Our new friend pointed out the nearly invisible bird that perched daily in the rocks, patiently stalking fish for breakfast. Seeing our friend also became the motivation for getting dressed, finishing breakfast, and departing for our walk.
One day, seeking an additional diversion, I suggested we ride the trolley that circles the area hotels and shops. When the driver said, “Where are you going?” I responded that we had no destination, just wanting to ride. Choosing the seat was an important decision. The one on the right? Left? Front? Middle? Back? To adults, taking this trolley is a way to avoid a hot walk to a hotel with packages. To a child, the ride is the adventure. Putting a dollar in the driver’s tip basket became a lesson in sharing. My granddaughter had to introduce riding the trolley to everyone else in the family. It didn’t matter if we had to wait for it. She would collect blossoms and speculate about where the trolley was and who was driving it. I’d try to remember what colour the trolley was—were the seats blue or green? She knew.
On the return walks, the pace slowed in the heat. Counting geckos became our diversion when small legs (and grandmother) grew weary. We’d walk from building L to building O, saying L-M-N-O-P as fast as we could.
Being a grandparent means having a bonus childhood. We can savor that sweet moment in the middle of a sunny afternoon when a grandchild smiles winningly and says, “Shall we go get a smoothie now?” We can forget about diets and deadlines, head to the ice cream shop, count geckos, and collect blossoms. We can say yes to almost anything because, even when a little one gets tired and cranky, we’re pretty good at coming up with diversions.
Simple pleasures. Important lessons, all learned thanks to a child who is content to slow down, feed the Koi, hop on the paving stones, and ride a trolley without a destination.
Suzanne Barchers, EdD