We Want to Teach Our Grandchildren
However, We Need To Learn From Them Also

As parents or grandparents, we spend a great deal of time helping the next generation mature and grow up into adulthood. I loved caring for my children and my first grandchild, Ayanna, who is now twenty. However, Jack and Owen are also my grandchildren and are much younger at four and two years of age.

I care for Jack and Owen and love the experience with them. However, being a grandparent today is different than it was twenty years ago when Ayanna came into my life. A part of the difference is my dancing with death nearly a decade ago. Additionally, I have learned a great deal from Jack and Owen. When I was a parent over four-dozen-years ago, I was into teaching my children. Teaching was the operative word. I wanted my three children and my older granddaughter to know all that they could know and to enjoy the process of learning.

I am still committed to that process of teaching. Jack, when he was three, wanted to know what I was doing on my laptop while babysitting for the two of them. I told him I was teaching art history. What Jack saw was a painting that was a part of my PowerPoint Presentation for the class. He wanted to know about a painting that the class was studying. I told him that the artist drew pictures just as he does. Off he toddled only to return ten minutes later and saw another painting. He wanted to know about that painting. A year and a half later, Jack knows the names of several dozen paintings and the name of the painter.

Next, we started to explore the sciences especially the earth sciences as they relate to fossils. I told them about some of the fossils that I had gotten for them. They know about trilobites, dinosaur dung, and a large assortment of other fossils. Often, I will take photos that will be included in an article about that particular lesson. On this particular occasion, I was doing precisely that. We were reviewing a number of different fossils as I took pictures.

Jack and Owen

As I was wrapping up their science class, Jack said, "Papa, I want to take a picture." To be honest with you, I would have dismissed that request four decades ago if my children had asked to use my camera when they were four years old. I would have said that they would have to wait until their teens.


However, in that simple request, I learned something as their loving teacher and Papa. I learned to listen to the request. Jack wanted to take a picture. Here I was teaching them what I thought was important, and he and Owen appreciated it. However, as adults, we often miss the moment, because we do not listen carefully as we teach.

Why were we sitting in Jack and Owen's living room studying fossils? It was because Jack when he was three wanted to know about painters and the arts. A year and a half ago, I never thought to teach him and now Owen about famous paintings. I certainly doubt whether any two kids, who are four and two, know as much about painters from Leonardo to Chagall as do Jack and Owen. They wanted to learn. Now, Jack wanted to take pictures. Therefore, I listened and gave him my Canon camera, which included a flash attachment and the extra battery add-on.

This story of Jack wanting to take a picture of me examining a trilobite occurred around last Thanksgiving. However, that is not the end of the story. When I went out shopping for Christmas gifts for the two boys, I found a camera for a young child that takes both digital photos and videos, which can be downloaded to a computer via a USB cable.

When Jack unwrapped his digital camera, his eyes lit up; he was fascinated. For the next couple of hours you did not see either of his eyes, because they were hidden by the viewfinder of his own camera. His mission that first day was to go up to everyone and tell him or her, "Say cheese."

Jack taking a photo

Later that day while I spent a half hour on my hands and knees having Jack and/or Owen riding on my back, Jack wanted to go upstairs. Jack said as I got to my feet slowly, "Hurry, Papa." Half under my breath, I said something about getting old. As a walked toward the stairs, I noticed Owen take hold of my hand. As he held my hand and we walked up the stair, he said, "I help you, Papa." Owen is two and a half. He held my hand to the top of the stairs.