For to be free is not to merely cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela -

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Learning from a life in motion

As promised, some pictures of Myrna jumping on the trampoline. One of her many favourite pastimes. Quite a few of her friends go to trampolining lessons, and we’ve suggested that Myrna joins one of these clubs. But no, she much rather teaches herself by trying things out (after thinking about it carefully) and watching and asking her friends. She’ll never do anything rash or take unnecessary risks. I did hear and read all the warnings that go with a trampoline, and certainly with a big one like ours, but I’ve never felt I should install a safety net or limit her movements and exercises. We did however read through the safety instructions together, discuss and practice the different ways of breaking your fall, and try out what happens when there’s more people on at the same time. We also have a set of rules for when we have other (and especially younger) children visiting, but to be honest most of the visiting children are quite sensible about it, too. More often than not it’s the parents that know about all the horrible things that could possibly happen and they worry, so for their peace of mind we cite the rules before their children go on the trampoline.

A large part of education, in my mind, is observation. Only because I observe my children - with eyes and mind directed by my heart and soul - I have an idea of how to support their educational processes. What to offer them, what to ask them, what to say and what not to say, what to do and what not to do. That makes it as much a process of learning for me as it is for them.
Observing what the trampoline means in Myrna’s life and how it supports her learning process is like watching a good documentary. I could go on for hours and hours describing it all, but I’m afraid I’m the only one fascinated enough to read that. So I’ll just share the observations of the past few days.
Myrna can get really engrossed by her computer activities. Whether it’s dress designing, the Simms, talking to her friends on MSN, or some of the Manga sites she goes onto, once she’s into it, she finds it difficult to stop. But sometimes she has to, because she doesn’t want to spend all her computertime in one go - they have a Watchdog account with nine hours a week on it. She’s discovered that going on the trampoline helps her shift her thoughts.
She’ll start off jumping as hard and as high as she can, really tiring herself out. Then she usually sits on the trampoline for a bit, catching her breath and when I’m there talking to me about what she’s been doing on the computer.
The other day she didn’t want to go on the computer at all, because of the nice weather, and she spent ages trying out this new thing on the trampoline. Being a perfectionist she will not stop until she manages to do what she’s set out to do. This time it was bouncing forwards, which she hadn’t done up to now because she found it really scary. But she’d watched her friends do it, asked them about techniques and all that, and was now ready to give it a go. Because of the nice weather I was sitting in the garden, knitting, and I was treated to a running comment. She started on her knees, then went to a crouching position, then she went forward from standstill and finally from small and later on bigger bounces. She discovered that it was scary because ‘her eyes reached the trampoline before her body, so she could see this big black surface all the time’ and also because ‘it’s much softer and easier to fall on your bum than to have to land on your hands’. But: ‘I have to go through that fear and let my brain tell my body that it’s safe to do’.
It all went fairly painless, and after an hour (!!) she mastered it and was very pleased with herself. The next day, however, she had pains in muscles that she didn’t know had been involved, especially her diaphragm and stomach. So she got the “Body Book” out and we looked at how muscles and tendons were connected to each other, and how the shocks she thought she’d absorbed with her hands and elbows could have had an effect on these other parts of her body.
Another thing she’s been doing is jumping with a long pink ribbon and trying to work out how to make it go in circles and other patterns while she was doing summersaults and other jumps. She pondered on the difference in speed between the ribbon and her body and she figured out how to make the ribbon make the figures she wanted it to make. But mostly, she enjoyed it immensely. And so did I.

Our life is in motion in other ways, too.
Ken’s dad is in hospital and the doctors have told us that it would take no less than a miracle for him to come out alive. They said the same in November, yet he was home again for Christmas. He went back in in February, but was back home after a few days. But this time we all have the feeling that it’s much more severe. He seems so much harder to reach and sometimes he doesn’t recognise his wife J or Ken or his grandchildren. Then they found out he had some sort of infection in his brain, they changed his medication and yesterday he was sitting up when Ken came in and they had a good natter. So who knows what the outcome will be this time. We are just making the most of every moment he’s still around.
AL has spent her Easter Break at her granddad’s house to look after J, make sure she eats and has somebody to talk to and cry with when needed. Ken’s been driving up and down every other day, going in to see his dad, talking to the specialist, making sure AL and J are alright. Owen joins him every now and then, although it’s most definitely not easy for him to be in that hospital, if only because of all the smells and disturbing noises.
Myrna has decided she wants to think of her granddad the way he was when he was at home, before he got ill, and we cherish the memories of his visit to our house last November. Myrna writes him cards, makes beautiful drawings and poems for him and gives Ken lots of kisses to pass on to granddad.
Obviously this all takes priority over everything else. But we try and arrange things around it, continue the usual activities as much as possible.
Here again, I find it important to observe and to try and provide what’s needed per child. All three of them are very fond of their granddad and they love him as much as he loves them. He’s not been a very good dad to Ken, divorcing Ken’s mum when Ken was twelve and not making much effort to stay in touch after that. For many years Ken and he had a very strained and unloving relationship. We even lost track of him completely when he moved to Spain with J and their daughter A. But he came back to England after having had a heart attack. And then an old friend, who knew both Ken’s mum and his dad, told him he had two (at that time) grandchildren in Holland. Having been so close to the end of life then, he realised that he’d nearly died without even knowing his grandchildren. So he came over to see us in Holland and that was the start of the slow rebuilding of a relationship.
Our children, not burdened with the knowledge of all this history, loved him from day one. They stole his heart and melted the last bits of ice away. Since we’ve moved to England things have only improved and it feels as if he’s been trying to make up for not being such a good father by being the best possible grandfather.
It just goes to show you’re never too old to learn and to change your ways.
Life is always in motion.


Dawniy said...

awwww what a lovely lovely post !
I love the pics of Myrna on the trampoline, ny two love our trampoline too.
Sorry about Grandad, hard isn't it Hugs xx

shukr said...

Pictures really capture the glee of active learning.

On the other note, wanted to say I'm thinking of you and hoping you have had lots of precious moments with Ken's Dad.

warm wishes

Mieke said...

Thanks, girls!
We're still having precious moments with Ken's dad. Owen and Ken came back yesterday and Owen said: "Granddad is a lot better, I think. He was complaining about the food."

'EF' said...

It is a challenging time for you all as Ken's dad is reaches for the last time of his life. Good on him for complaining about the food :) I can remember the hospital trips every day and these can take their is good that you are all able to support eachother. Myrna is able to say how she wants to do this and that is a good thing. I hope that this time will go gently on you all.