“I want a race car… no! A toolbox. No! An airplane… yeah an airplane!”
My dad has a soft spot for my 5-year old son. And my son would do just about anything to spend time with his grandpa. So, when my son says he wants to build something out of wood (my dad’s favorite past time), they are out in the garage before you can say “wood shavings.”
I kept thinking, “This is so important. The “old” things of life are SO important, and we don’t do them anymore.”
• We don’t carve things out of wood. (I learned on a bar of Ivory soap).
• We don’t sit in front of the fireplace at Christmas and crack walnuts with a nutcracker and tell the Christmas story on a flannel board.
• We don’t make homemade apple pies that take 30 minutes to just peel the apples.
• We don’t sit and look through photo albums and tell stories of WWII.
• We don’t sew our own clothes or grow our own food or play with toys made out of sticks and string.
So I started to think: Why is that? Why is it important for kids these days to spend time doing the “old” things of life? Why do I want my kids to learn to work with their hands, mow the grass, build things and use a sewing machine?…
It bothered me at first, because I couldn’t think of anything right away. I mean, we can survive these days using our iphones to navigate (and take pictures and check our EMAIL for goodness’ sake, and even make phone calls.). We can go buy whatever we want RIGHT NOW. Or even better as a mom of littles, we can order it on Amazon and have it delivered to our doorstep within 48 hours!
Then slowly, (that’s the key… slowly) the reasons started coming to me.
This is why it’s important for us to carry on the old tradition and teach our children the “old” things:
I mentioned in a previous post about children’s books that I like, that listening to Little House in the Big Woods on audio book with my kids was fabulous. We don’t do hard work like that anymore: growing our own food, making our own butter, hunting in the winter, building our own house! There are very few things in life nowadays that make our kids work HARD. Athletics maybe? Boy Scouts?
So, when my son has to go out to the workshop with Papa and measure, cut, sand, glue, sand again and paint a project himself, he’s learning the value of sticking with something to the end. Working hard. Not giving up, and seeing the result of that work. That leads to the second thing…
Buying an apple pie at the store takes, what… 2 minutes? Peeling 6-8 granny smith apples, cutting out the core, slicing them into little pieces, seasoning them, making a crust, putting it together and watching it bake for an hour? That’s a commitment. I barely want to wait that long and I’m an adult. I want my kids to learn that good things are not necessarily instantaneous, and we live in a world of instantaneous. If I want to find that YouTube video of a funny somebody doing a funny something, boom. In 60 seconds, it’s playing on my phone. Let’s teach our kids that waiting (patiently) is important. Let’s teach them to slow down. (except when it involves eating their dinner or brushing their teeth, come on!)
Okay, Laura Ingalls Wilder, I’ll use you again. Those pioneer kids had dolls made out of an old corn cob wrapped in fabric. CORN, y’all. When you work hard for something, or have to wait for it, or make it yourself, you are grateful for it. You don’t take it and toss it like we do these days. You don’t upgrade your hand-carved wooden figurine every year like you do an iphone. If I could teach my kids anything, it would be for them to be grateful people. My parents made me save up my own money if I wanted the ridiculously expensive shoes instead of the Kmart brand they were going to buy me. They wanted me to be grateful for what I had.
This is the common denominator of all things “old.” We don’t take the time anymore. The old things took time: not just time spent to complete a task, but time spent with people. Sitting and cracking walnuts in front of the fire is not the most time-efficient way to eat nuts. You can buy a 100lb bag at Sam’s if quantity is what you want. (okay, maybe 3lbs) Doing it yourself requires that you stop, and sit, and enjoy time with someone.
I scheduled a hang-out time with someone recently (kid-free) and was disappointed to find that I spent about 40% of our time together watching my friend text, email or even chat on the phone with other people. There used to be a rule that the person right in front of you was more important than the person on the phone.
Why did this bother me?
Because TIME communicates VALUE.
When my dad takes 4 hours out of his day to design and build a wooden airplane with his grandson, he communicates value to his grandson.
When my grandmother takes 20 minutes to write a hand-written note that should take 2 minutes, because Parkinson’s makes writing difficult, she communicates value to her granddaughter.
When a granddaughter takes time to ask about, and listen to, grandpa’s stories from WWII, she communicates value to her grandfather.
These old-but-newly-popular vintage things, like hand-stitched lace and homemade quilts and chicken feeders used as light fixtures in a farmhouse kitchen on Fixer Upper are not just “things,” they are symbols of a valuable way of life. They are reminiscent of a way that I want to teach my kids.
A slow way. A patient way. A grateful, hard-working simple way, and a way that I never want to forget.
That’s why the old stuff matters.