A teachable moment


Maui is a Hawaiian demigod. He lassoed the sun closer to the Earth to stretch the days, pulled the Hawaiian Islands from the sea and made coconuts into trees just for fun. He’s a trickster and star of the hit children’s movie ”Moana.” While wielding a giant magic fishhook, he turns into different animals and insects as he creates the world, pulls fire from down below, and helps to fight off demons. He also has lassoed the imagination of our two granddaughters, Little One and Sweet Caroline.

Under the canopy of trees in the backyard yesterday, the girls were playing — their imaginations running wild as they were. Picking up sticks and using them as their giant magic fishhooks they turned each other into countless animals and insects. Then they attacked trees, bushes and even that dreaded shepherd’s hook holding up the empty bird-feeder.

After an hour or so, the blazing sun hid behind a cloud, giving us a momentary reprieve from the summertime heat. Caroline, excited, ran over to pick up the biggest stick of their backyard afternoon trek into the woods. Soooo, when is a 6-foot long stick not a stick? Answer, when it’s a 6-foot long black snake, of course. That was indeed a teachable moment in their lives and mine.

Over their next 14 years there will be many, many more teachable moments. How Big Papa here is going to teach them everything they need to know I have no idea. I can teach them the things I’ve learned about the great outdoors and Mother Nature, but there are still lots of stuff I have no clue about that they must learn.

And that responsibly falls not on my shoulders but, thankfully, much more competent ones. Those shoulders belong to all those folks out there occupying empty classrooms for the next couple of days of preplanning. Those folks are teachers, and our girls will meet many special ones in the coming years that will help to shape and change their lives.

Being a grandfather helping raise a 3- and4-year-old is sometimes tough and tiring. But mine is not the toughest job. That job belongs to all the teachers going back to school in the next week. And if anybody needs a magic fishhook to help get through the day, it would be them.

What better way to keep students attention than turning yourself into an eagle, fish, or even a giant octopus? And if any teacher out there turns themselves into sharks, I guarantee no kids will misbehave in their class. Who knows, perhaps one day their high school biology teacher will have a 6-foot black snake in their room and remind them of the important lesson they learned a long, long time ago in Big Papa’s backyard.

As teachers start another school year we entrust them with the most precious of all things – our children and grandchildren. For seven hours a day they stand in front of the classroom conveying the knowledge they have learned. How teachers do it is a true gift and they need our support. I stand in front of our grandchildren trying to convince them the importance of eating broccoli and fail miserably. I can’t even imagine teaching them about grammar or fractions.

All is not lost, though. Our granddaughters are still young and there’s plenty of time. Time to teach them that eating their vegetables will make them big and strong like Maui. And that snakes are good and helpful creatures that really won’t bother you. Unless, of course, you accidentally step on them or mistake them for a giant magical fish hook and try to pick it up.

Yes, that certainly was a teachable moment. Need to keep a better eye on redheaded Sweet Caroline. Like Maui, she’s becoming a trickster in her own right. There’s no telling what she’ll do next.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]