When I was visiting Lisa last month, she made a comment about how one of the most skills a child can learn is to be able to entertain himself. Some children, she said, know how to do it easily enough: give him some toys, doesn't need to be many, or overwhelmingly interesting, and he'll play play play. Some of the ability to self-entertain is based on the child's imagination: a wood block can be a wood block, a building, a brick, a gift, a loaf of bread, a cookie, a chocolate bar, a book, or an eraser. When we grow older, we often think less creatively, and the wood block is just a wood block; the dot on the chalkboard is just a dot.

When watching Eli and Jake, I noticed Eli was remarkably able to self-entertain himself. He would like books read to him, but seemed fine to be left alone with his toys. Often, he would be pull a box out, dump it, and start in on some story about the airplane landing in the corn field with the city in chaos next to it, and the tree people with incredible leaping abilities being able to jump on top of the planes. He seemed lost in his little world until another event pulled him out of it.

Jake, on the other hand, seemed pulled out easily. Distracted by the outside quickly, not as immersed into his own world as Eli was, Jake seemed to need outside stimulus to keep him occupied.


As a kid, I remember reading books. I know I was lost in the world of books, being able to block out the world when I'm immersed in a book. I don't recall being self-entertained as a kid with much other than books. I watch Jonathan's kids and am amazed how similar they are to Jake and Eli in terms of self-entertainment. The elder seems to need external stimulus to be entertained, where the younger is content with his trains and toys.
I wonder if the trend was true of my older brother and me, if it's a "first born gets lots of attention so never really learned to self-entertain, but the second is somewhat ignored so is forced to self-entertain" sort of thing, or just, at this moment, a coincidence. I also wonder if the current always-on, 140 character, 30 second attention span affects the ability to self-entertain.

I should ask some parents who have two or more children. See what they say...

Self reflection


I have driven 2555 miles in the last five days with three different friends. I plan on driving another 700 in two days with another. I have driven those first miles, and stand in the bathroom of my father's house, the house of part of my childhood, the house he has been in for thirty years.

As I look around, I remember my dismay at the hairs growing in under my arms and down below, realizing I was changing. I remember crying at the change, desperately wishing it away, and lamenting there was nothing I could do to stop it.

I turn, and as I walk up the stairs to my bedroom, I remember seeing my mom on the stairs crying. She had fallen down the stairs, and was in pain. I was confused. "You're an adult," I told her, "you're not supposed to cry."

I continue upstairs, and, as I walk into my childhood bedroom, remember how I lay on the bed there and heard my mom ask my dad for a divorce. Neither realized I was around the corner listening, hearing every word. None of us realized how hard that moment would be for me to overcome decades later.

I crawl into the bed, and as I lie there, I hear the trains on the distant tracks, the horn sounding across the forest and fields that will be plowed under for houses this year. I begin to weep for the loss of that land.

And as I cry, I remember how I cried to be normal when I was young. How I didn't want to be smart, an outcast, I just wanted to fit in. I realize just how much my life has been better for not having been normal, and wish I could comfort that child who knew not what she wished for.

I stop crying and, as I rise from the bed, look out the nighttime windows of my childhood bedroom. I see the trees from my youth are still standing just outside my windows. They are bigger than they were when I gazed out at them as a child. They are bigger, but they are still here.

I, too, am bigger. I too am still here.

I have come a long way

I still have a long way to go.