What I Learned from My Grandson, Eric…

December 9, 2009 at 11:11 am Leave a comment

posted by Linda Appleman (Guidall) Shapiro ‘81, psychotherapist and author

As a therapist, I know the importance of asking the right questions in order to help patients focus on how they’re thinking and what they’re doing to process their experiences. However, it’s often true that in everyday life a seemingly innocent, simple question can lead us to places in our brains that we wouldn’t necessarily have thought about.

The other day, I had one such “AHA!” moment with my grandson Eric.

It all started when he saw me using his family’s computer to check the number of votes I’d received that day in WELLsphere’s contest for TOP BLOGGER. I explained that I write a blog each Sunday, A PSYCHOTHERAPIST’S JOURNEY, and that so far I’m 12th in the top 20 bloggers. “That’s pretty impressive,” my not yet 9 year old grandson said.

I then went on to show him the title of some of the past blogs I’d written and I stopped when I saw the one I’d posted in September which talked primarily about his sister Sophie, entitled UNICORNS EAT STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM. He immediately proceeded to read it and even laughed at the appropriately funny places. But, then, he politely suggested that in all fairness I needed to consider writing a blog about him. Of course, I decided he was right. The question was what topic I would choose to write about.

Within seconds he suggested I discuss the new writing program instituted for the first time this year in his school. Designed to teach children how to improve their critical thinking skills, he explained that he’s learning to distinguish between a Personal Narative and an Essay.

He explained that “a personal narrative is written about a moment that something happened to you in your life (please underline the word you, grandma)… and an essay is a topic written on a subject with a particular theme.”

When I asked him to give me a sample of how his thinking is becoming more critical, he said: “Here’s how you start. First, you draw the letter T dividing a page into 2 columns. One says,”I noticed,” and the other says “I realized.”

“So,” he continued, “I noticed that we have 5 computers in our classroom at school. After noticing them, I realized that when my Mom and Dad were in third grade they didn’t have computers in their classrooms and that must have made how they learned very different from the way I learn.”

I must admit that at that point I was as impressed with the school’s new curriculum as I was with Eric’s ability to understand and explain it … he, my 3rd grade football, baseball, guitar playing grandson.

This led me to think about what I said at the start of this blog, namely how often we notice things without stopping to think about them. For instance, when we’re driving down a country lane in the north-east during these brisk autumn days and we notice that the once lush green-leafed trees of summer are now bursting forth with leaves of reds, oranges and golds … do we stop to wonder about or realize how it came to be that this seemingly magical transformation isn’t merely a part of the scenery that we’ve come to expect to see each year?

Then, too, how often do we notice things about people: the way they dress or talk, the habits they have, the passions they talk about which we may or may not share. Yet, because we want to like them or because we’re at a particularly lonely time in our lives and feel in need of friendship, we don’t take the time to realize that what we’ve noticed should tell us something, be a reminder of what’s important to us, what and whom we wish to welcome into our lives and what would serve us better to avoid.

I understand now – perhaps better than ever before – that our children and grandchildren can make us realize so many things when we take the time to talk to them and listen to what they have to say.

When asked what else he would like me to share about him, Eric said not to forget to mention that he Loves (capital “L”, grandma) all sports and has been playing all of them including: hockey, soccer, tennis, swimming, ping-pong, and air hockey for as long as he can remember.

“And, oh,” he added, “I think a good ending would be: ‘As Eric was lying on the carpet crunching away on UTZ potato chips, with his hands all greasy, we both laughed at the bag with the name UTZ written across it, wondering how it got its name.”

So, to honor Eric’s curiosity, I will end as he wished me to and ask any of you if you have noticed a bag of chips with the name UTZ, what have you realized about the origin of its name?

Here’s to noticing and realizing all that matters to you!

Linda Appleman (Guidall) Shapiro ‘81 is a psychotherapist, addictions counselor, oral historian, and author.  Her book is available at amazon.com and also as an audio book from Recorded Books Inc. (narrated by actress Suzanne Toren).  Linda shares more of her thoughts and experiences on her blog www.beyondatrauma.blogspot.com.

Entry filed under: dialogue, families, social-emotional learning.

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