It was a great pleasure having two of my granddaughters over for a visit the other day. An all day visit. And just two girls, so it was very peaceful, compared to many other get togethers we have had with the grandkids. We did the normal things that grandparents and grandchildren usually do… eating, exploring beautiful places, talking about what mattered to them, and trying to answer their questions of curiosity.
They painted pictures with crayons, and played a bit with plastic dough. Their grandmother knew exactly which little treats would appeal to them. And I had the opportunity to think about childhood in ideal circumstances.
It occurred to me that the difference in age between siblings, determines differences in the way we experience childhood itself. The older child usually experiences a sense of responsibility towards the younger. He or she has to restrain herself from the abuse of authority; has to entertain the younger brother or sister; and usually tries to be sympathetic and helpful even when that younger brother or sister are irritating or annoying.
And for the younger child, the older brother or sister always seems as if he thinks he knows it all, and has more rights, and knows the tricks of how to represent things to authority figures, and the world at large. In large families, each child finds his place within the framework of the family, but there is a greater urge among younger children to be rebellious and stubborn about what they want.
As I watched the girls playing with the plastic dough, and painting, I was reminded of something Janet had said, not long ago, quoting Picasso, that all children are artists. But it seems to me that that is not completely true. Children do have the ability to throw themselves into the representation of their vision without an excess of self consciousness. But they also have less awareness of what art can do. And what artists have done in the past. And how other people are going to see their creations. Moreover, there are vast differences between the talents of different people, even when those people are children.
I was aware of certain frustrations when they were unable to put the image on paper that they had envisioned in their minds… and sometimes… a difficulty, and sense of impatience when others didn’t recognize the image that they had created. One can also see a difference in the ability to draw an image, related directly to the age of the child.
Watching them, and relating to them, many memories came back to me from when I was a young parent, and my children were at the same stages as these grandchildren. I am sure that the experience was a pleasure for all. It also reminded me of how important it is for children to relate to people of all ages. And I’m convinced that the extended family makes for a much more balanced environment as a background for the development of young children.