Whenever we head to what my children refer to as the "Big City" (I am speaking of Kennewick, WA. Never heard of it, that is ok, I hadn't either until I moved here. Trust me it's not that big, but they do have a Target and a mall!) the first thing my 10 year old daughter wants to do is ride the escalators. That's right nothing makes that child smile like a flight of moving stairs. She could ride them up and down all day long. Heck, who needs Disneyland when you have thrill rides just two and a half hours away.
You always hear people sing the praises of small town child rearing. In fact when you ask the average person why they have returned to The Valley, the most common response you will hear is "I wanted to raise my kids here". I though I fully understood the pros and cons of a small town upbringing, after all I didn't exactly grow up in a metropolis. But growing up in the suburbs in California did not even begin to prepare me for my current parenting experience.
When I first met my husband I would listen to the stories of his child hood and think "he has got to be making this stuff up". His youthful antics sounded more like the memories of my parents than of someone my own age. A common phrase in our marriage has become "we grew up 700 miles and 35 years apart". But I was sure times had changed and that the "modern" Valley would be nothing but a shadow of the place he once called home. Yet again, I was wrong.
Sometimes I think this is the land that time forgot. One of my favorite past times when I am volunteering at my kid's school is to look at the class pictures of years gone by. (Our children attend my hubby's Alma Mater.) There is very little change from year to year and decade to decade. Sure the 80's tend to stand out with "the hair". But other than that the variations are quite small. Each class of around 20 children sports much of the same basic look, jeans and collared button-ups. I must say that is precisely what my kids wore this year on picture day. Boots still tend to be the norm, I think this has less to do with fashion than function. Most of these kids still have outside chores each morning before school.
This is the school where Dodge Ball has not been outlawed, it remains a class favorite during PE. The same school boasts a yearly Christmas Play. That's right Christmas, not Winter Play or even Holiday. (Please don't tell the ACLU, the kids love it and I would hate to see third graders drug from the auditorium in hand-cuffs.) My children attend class in the same classrooms my husband and his siblings once sat in. They eat in the same small cafeteria where lunch is prepared daily by local Moms complete with fresh baked rolls. As a parent you can join your child for lunch any day you wish, without calling ahead, for 3 bucks! In this same cafeteria, ornate hand made gingerbread houses provide a festive feel through the month of December. When the month ends one lucky child from each class will have their name drawn and get to take this treasure home.
I often fear when I take my kids to cities like Portland or LA when we visit family. I am not afraid for their safety. I am afraid they will not know how to act. They don't understand the subtle nuances of how people act in a city. They are not aware of how much space to allow people in crowded areas. They are use to everyone around them looking and talking just like them. I try to expose them to different cultures and foods, but there are just some things you miss out on. They do love sushi, so I must be doing something right as a parent.
So, I am thinking about some sort of cultural exchange program. I will take my LA nieces for a few weeks each summer. They can come here and learn the finer points of Dodge Ball, camping, fishing and getting dirty. And I can send my two munchkins down to my sister for lessons in shopping, culture and escalator etiquette. After all, I don't think my daughter understands why people get upset when she runs up the down escalator. I think they just need to get off of her ride.
The World's Best Peanut Butter Cookies
(I believe this recipe first came from my great-aunt Thelma. But they are the perfect cookie when you don't want to run to the store for ingredients.)
1 cup Peanut Butter
1 cup sugar
(yes, that is all!)
Mix together. Spoon by teaspoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet. Press flat with the back of a fork.
Bake at 375 about 11 min.
Makes 1 doz cookies (if you don't eat too much dough)