I've said I hope to write a book for my grandchildren, made up of lessons I've learned the hard way. Someday it might spare them mistakes, pain and frustration.
It occurred to me lately I continually learn lessons from the kids as well.
I babysit my grandkids two afternoons a week. It's not as intense as raising them, as lots of grandparents do. But it's enough time that I get to study them in their native habitat.
Here are a few bits of wisdom they're teaching me:
■ Harper, 5: Small indulgences make life worthwhile.
No matter how tough a day Harper's had at pre-school, a quick stop at the candy store on the way home makes it OK. I realize it's now a societal transgression to praise the salutary effects of sweets, even in carefully rationed amounts. And yes, for those of you already ripping your hair, Harper also eats healthy foods, and remains a portrait of childhood beauty and haleness. For her, though, a piece or two of cream candy sets the planet aright. Such a simple, inexpensive treat; such a blissful smile.
■ Hadley, 4: Every story can be improved by a princess, a ballerina, a mermaid, a unicorn and a pink car with pink gasoline.
Ask Hadley where her dad is, what she did at the park or whether she can possibly locate the socks she took off. Her answer will be more or less the same.
It will wind on for 10 minutes and include a princess who showed up on a flying unicorn. The princess' friends, the ballerina and mermaid, came, too. Then they all drove off together in a pink car filled with pink gasoline — to find Hadley's socks. Or her dad. Or to try the swing set at the park.
This girl thinks creatively. Which frustrates her more literal-minded sister.
Harper: "Papa, she's making that up. There wasn't a mermaid or a unicorn in this house. Hadley, you left your socks under your bed."
Hadley looks at her pityingly, as if thinking, "Harper, there are mermaids in my head. I'm sorry if you don't have any in yours. Go eat your candy."
■ Hudson, 3: Each fish and animal in the Newport Aquarium is a mind-blowing wonder.
I recently tagged along to the aquarium with the kids and their parents.
"Everybody!" Hudson shouted as he ran from fish tank to fish tank, down hallway after hallway. "Look over here! It's Nemo! It's Nemo!" (Or whoever.)
He loved the crocodiles so much he tried to climb into their pit. He loved the turtles. He loved the sharks. He was pure, personified ecstasy.
■ Hagan, 15 months: There's happiness to be had from dropping things in the garbage that don't belong there.
Having watched larger family members put trash in wastebaskets, Hagan has decided this is the greatest trick since Houdini. It makes her delirious. Anything that finds its way into her hands goes directly into the nearest trash can: dolls, toy cars, hats. She giggles, claps, points proudly at the receptacle.
■ From all four: Most days are made up of miracles, if you have eyes to see. Play until you fall over. Sleep when you're tired. Cry when you're sad. Sing at the top of your lungs when you hear a catchy song. Eat when you're hungry, even if it's something you found under a sofa cushion. Hug everybody who walks into the room. Dress as crazy as you want — a church shirt and clip-on bow tie over pajama bottoms and cowboy boots, accessorized with Spider-Man gloves. Climb every table you bump into, then jump off it.
Come to think of it, maybe the kids should write a book. For Papa.