Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lessons from a first grade field trip

Last Friday, I had the good fortune to accompany Liam's first grade glass on a field trip to Lyndhurst (http://lyndhurst.wordpress.com/), a stunning Gothic Revival mansion overlooking the Hudson River -- a place that I've walked by, run by and driven by countless times but never set foot in. The trip and tour were understandably geared toward a six-year old mentality. While I would have loved to learn more about the amazing architectural details, original artwork and Tiffany glass, I instead came away with a better understanding of life today versus the way it was roughly a hundred years ago.

As a Mom, I can clearly see that many things are easier now than they were then – take for instance laundry and vacuuming. While our kids may put us through the wringer, at least we have washing machines to tackle our soiled wears. And, while vacuuming may not be my favorite chore, it sure beats moving the furniture, rolling up the rugs, taking them outside and beating the crap out of them… although, come to think of it, that sounds like a pretty good way to work out your frustrations!

Playdates as we know them today didn’t exist. If Junior wanted to do some socializing, you had to send a letter, await a reply, summons your horse and carriage and pack your overnight bag because the odds were good you’d be staying awhile. Now, while this does have some alluring qualities, it’s certainly a lot simpler to call, email, text or, as one vocal little lady put it “just go downstairs! I live in an apartment building and can always find a playdate!”

As for the kids, well, they seemed pretty content to live here in 2011 rather than way back when. Beyond the obvious challenge with playdates, they were visibly disturbed to learn that children at the table could only speak when spoken to -- can you imagine?! Dinnertime without the common complaints I’ve become accustomed to --  most of which start or end with “I don’t LIKE it!” I think maybe these pioneer parents were on to something…

Then there were the clothes and toys. You should have seen these kids faces when they saw the bathing costumes (which, frankly, I think would truly flatter my figure right about now!) and heard that the “comfy” clothes they were all sporting were off-limits… it was petticoats for the girls and pressed shirts for the boys… something that’s all the more impressive when you consider what it took to iron pre-electricity! As for entertainment, those poor kids had no video games, no TV, no DVDs -- as one feisty fella put it “they had NOTHING!”

I would beg to differ. One of my lessons learned was that they actually had quite a lot. They had the freedom to be kids. To roam the property. To let their imaginations run wild as their little bodies followed. They respected their elders, minded their manners and from what I can tell, usually ate their string beans without whining. Perhaps I’m a little old-fashioned (or maybe a lot?) but, I think there’s some good to be had in embracing the wisdom of generations past. And for that, I am grateful to have joined the first grade trip to Lyndhurst. Liam, on the other hand, may not be so glad – especially since I now have some new ammunition to remind him that kids have indeed survived without a DS or iPad of their own. Come to to think of it, Liam may not invite me on any future trips… although, I suppose he won’t have the opportunity to unless I invite him to speak first!

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