Sunday, January 21, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, January 21, 2001

Family Matters
Fostering a creative interest in the world is best gift

By Ka'ohua Lucas
Special to The Advertiser

"I’m bored," my 10-year-old sighed as he plopped onto the La-Z-Boy, hugging a 14.5-ounce bag of organic blue chips while plunging one of his hands into the plastic wrap. "There’s nothing to do around here," he added, shoving a corn chip into his mouth.

"Well, why don’t you play a board game, or you can read a book, or shoot some baskets. You haven’t done that in a long time," I said, ticking off a list in my mind. "Or, I think Kalima-guys are home. Why don’t you strike up a game of football, or build a fire so that we can burn the termite-infested wood, or play with the dogs?"

"Gosh, Mom, it’s the same old thing," he groaned. "Why can’t you play with me?"

"I’ll play with you if you first help sweep the floor, clean out the garage, scrub the toilet and organize the linen closet," I said, smiling, knowing full well what his response would be. "Have we got a deal?"

"Just forget it," he said, struggling up from the recliner and ambling out the front door.

Sometimes I just don’t get it.

It seems that this generation of children needs to be constantly entertained.

If they have a parent like me, playing video games or watching television all day is not an option.

They are required to create their own play experiences.

Now I’m trying to wean them from expecting me to participate in every one of their creative endeavors.

"Paani, play for the sheer joy of play, was a part of Hawaiian life that began in early childhood and would continue throughout life," wrote Mary Kawena Pukui, Hawaiian cultural expert and scholar.

"The baby in coastal areas had sea and sand for playthings," Pukui wrote. "He (she) could gather stones, sift sand through small fingers, rattle shells and, a little later, explore quiet sea pools for darting fish and scuttling crabs."

"Even without the ocean, the Hawaiian child had no lack of amusement or of mea paani," or toys, Pukui said.

As a youngster, I had no trouble amusing myself.

On a walk to a friend’s house, I would stop at my favorite clump of California grass and gently withdraw an unformed blade of grass.

Next, I would snip off the tip and carefully unravel the young shoot, removing its inner core.

Then, rolling it back into its original form, I would purse my lips and blow gently on the bottom of the cone, which would release a high-pitched whistle.

I tried demonstrating this to my kids one day. "See," I said, "you don’t need to go to KB Toy Store to buy a whistle."

"You’re weird, Mom," my 17-year old mumbled.

I’ve shared stories with my keiki about growing up in the country, and how as kids we would amuse ourselves.

Sometimes we would collect "cats’ eyes" (the M&M-size, ivory-colored shells with the flat bottoms) on the beach, which was our backyard.

One of us would sneak into the house, grabbing a bottle of white vinegar and a saucer. Next, we would pour vinegar into the plate, barely covering its bottom.

Then, we’d place the flat part of the cats’ eyes in the vinegar and, entranced, watch the shells slowly slither across the plate.

"And you call that entertaining, Mom?" my 10-year-old snorts.

As a matter of fact, son, I did.

Oh, there were so many things to do back then: hiking, swimming, running through grass that was head high, playing "chase mastah" with the neighborhood kids.

Those were the days.

I admit, I certainly did not memorialize the past then as I do now.

But now that I’m older and wiser, I’ve learned to appreciate what I had.

I think the greatest gift that any parent can give their children is to encourage their independence, especially in exploring their environment - howling at the moon, identifying the Hawaiian names of stars and finding a valley pool that was once a popular swimming hole.

Two Hawaii parents, Lynne Wikoff and Kaohua Lucas, take turns writing the Family Matters column. Send comments to: Family Matters, Ohana Section, The Honolulu Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802; e-mail; fax 535-8170.

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