The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What was the favorite thing you gave this year?

I never felt completely nurtured by any religious or spiritual community I’ve been a part of…but then, I never felt excluded or empty, either. Just usually…somewhere in-between. Feeling that the priest or minister or shaman or whatever would be much more interesting one-on-one than he or she was preaching to the masses. But then, I guess that’s a lot like a banquet: hopefully everyone is fed, but it’s not like individualizing the meals. I have a lot of respect for the profession, but have grasped for quite a long time that it was likely I’d never find a particular path that would work for me. Just something odd in my head and heart, I guess.

But while sitting and listening to the sermon at church doesn’t do it for me, watching the rest of the congregation does. Because my assumption is that it isn’t perfectly “working” for anyone. That everyone in that church is there partially for the service, and partially for the community of like-minded people, partially to support those who need what a church can offer, or to keep the social aspects of the church strong: in the black community, there have just been too many times when the church was the only functioning organism. Christmas brings out the best of church-folks, I think.

Didn’t go to church this year, but was at First African Methodist Episcopal a few weeks back. Didn’t attend the service, I was with the Sunday School class, supervising Jason and offering what help I could. And you know? I liked it. I liked sitting back and watching the Sunday school teachers work, and listening to their stories and games. I thought to myself that there were many stories I heard at that age that were good teaching tales, that gave a young mind perspective on kindness, and sacrifice, and cruelty, and generosity. Good stuff, all around.

And for the last few weeks I could FEEL Jason struggling to be a better kid. Christmas did that. “He knows when you are sleeping.” The Santa Claus routine is brilliant. The entire world seems to change for a month or so, and everyone’s focus is a little different. And if far too much of it is on the commercial aspects, that’s not a surprise: we live in a commercial culture. Just the way it works. But I watched him carefully, and yeah, most of it is shiny stuff, just junk, but his behavior…he really was more considerate, and tried to be a “big boy” as much as he could, and I can’t see how any of that hurts him. Concentrating him on giving to others, going to homeless shelters to make contributions…we’ll fine-tune what Santa wants over the next years. And his ability to absorb the stories in Church will grow more sophisticated as well. And somewhere between Jesus and Mr. Claus, I think we’re gonna be all right. Heck, even if it’s just the fun, that’s darned near enough.
My favorite gift I gave? Jason's SmartCycle. Video game, exercise, and educational toy in one. He played with it more than all his other toys and stuff combined. Fisher-Price has a winner!


Anonymous said...

My favorite gift I gave? Jason's SmartCycle. Video game, exercise, and educational toy in one. He played with it more than all his other toys and stuff combined. Fisher-Price has a winner!

Careful there. I'm aware of no studies in the area, but just on parental experience and observation alone I don't give much praise to most interactive games. It's too long of a story for here, but I'd swear to all I know that's good and true that they tend to stifle a child's creativity and basic curiosity. This is hard for me to put into words, Steven.

While I have given my son access to CERTAIN instructional items of an interactive nature, I'm hell bent for leather in providing him with the simplest of toys to get him curious and thinking. Model airplanes and those balsa wood ones that actually fly when tossed would be a good example. I want him to ask himself "What makes this go up and down?" (Bernoulli's Effect/Law). A Rubic's Cube. Anything but a new fangled babysitter like television is and was like when I was a child.

Anonymous said...

This is a great thread. I gave my wife a "day off". I cooked, cleaned, picked up her relatives from the airport--brought them back, paid her bills for the latter portion of the month...she's carrying our child, and it was the least that I could do. Damnthe holidays, I'm thinking that I'll do this more often. I never undrstood how much presure she was under, until I stood in her shoes.


Anonymous said...

not much into
the present thing
but I gave unstintingly
of love
and most of the rest of the year
in companionship;
the contents of my Mind;
clearly expressed caring
and cherishment;
book recommendations;
good urls to Steve;
an ear
for the rants of my sons
when they are stressed;
loans and pies and his other favorite suzannish made food to my ex-;
the comforts of my home for a year
to the daughter of an ex-intimate;
and a new Beloved to my self


Steve Perry said...

I made up a short, funny little song and sent it to a friend.
He apparently didn't think it was all that clever, but I had fun imaging his face when he heard it ...

Frank said...


To my 10 y/o grandson I gave The Dangerous Book for Boys while to my 11 y/o Granddaughter I gave The Daring Book for Girls.

Just doing my part to reclaim childhood from video games and overprotection.

AlanL said...

Bob: I want him to ask himself "What makes this go up and down?"

My four year old asked me that very question in Zurich airport as we were waiting for our connecting flight on the pre-Christmas trip to Grandma & Grandpa, watching the plnaes go up & down and regretting our failure to pack binoculars. Luckily for me, Zurich airport sandwich bar cash receipts turn out to be of the right weight & texture for the blow-over-the-top demonstration to work well.

Daniel Keys Moran said...

Scooters, skateboards, and bicycles for my sons.

Not one fucking video game under the tree.

A while back I took away their Gameboys, DSs, and XBox. I took away my 6 year old's VSmile. Abruptly my 12 year old is reading books, which he did at gunpoint previously, my 9 year old is reading more books, and my 6 year old is dying to get to the point where he can read. They're calmer, better focused, and happier.

We've barely had a functioning TV most of their lives, but about 6 months ago we unplugged the cable entirely -- just plugged it back in on Christmas to watch the Lakers/Suns game.

They do watch a lot of movies by comparison with most kids their ages -- I'm cool with that.

Unknown said...

camping with my children on weekends... in the living room..

Anonymous said...

I gave a copy of "Everyday Genius" to an acquaintance, and got a wonderful new friend in return. :)