SOPHIA - 26
and parents have struggled since the dawn of time to communicate on an
Sentinel of Vigilance G-Ma Lori offers readers a powerful but simple tool
to bridge the gap between child and adult. It's called "Rule 62."
And it thrives when a parent or loved one engages in Vigilant
Activities--those actions that build a child's Courage over Fear,
Conviction ahead of Intimidation, and ability to take Right Actions over
the ease of Complacency. Join G-Ma Lori on another quest
to build the Bridge of Love between herself and her grandchildren.)
"RULE 62" or
“G-Ma, I hate school. I’m not going today or
any day. I’m on strike.”
Matt, my seven-year-old grandson bleated out the words as he
donned his new over-sized winter jacket, threw himself on the floor and
thrashed about like the beached whale he’d recently seen on the National
One might assume
Matt attended the Beast of Terror School
Any casual observer of Vigilance Etiquette would immediately assume
Matt attended the Beast of Terror Elementary School, and that each morning
his feet were pressed to hot coals by the Demons of Terrorism. And, to
add insult to his already blistered injuries, when he opened his mouth to
speak, little elf demons rushed to sew his lips shut and then stomp on his
arms and legs with nail laden boot heels until he yelled “Uncle!”
My granddaughter, Sarah, on the other hand, went to Angelic
Elementary, the one made in heaven for five-year-olds, where the land of
milk and honey is endless.
“I love school, G-Ma. I love all my new friends and it’s so much
fun. I wish I could go to after-school and not get picked up by you or
mommy, or G-Pa.”
Sarah, Matt’s five-year-old sister, my special little princess,
constantly spouts the exact opposite of whatever Matt grouchily complains
about. She’s the Endearment of Vigilance regarding school. Matt’s the
Beast of School Terror.
“Matt, let’s go. We’ll be late.
Get up, ‘c’mon. Now!!!!!” Matt’s mom, my older daughter,
exasperates herself at the task of getting two kids ready for school and
one toddler—16-month-old Angus--ready for the playground. Although
Sarah is pro-school, even angels are sometimes hard to motivate at 7:00
Even angels are
difficult to motivate at 7:00 a.m.
On school days, I arrive at their apartment thirty minutes prior to
their departure, just enough time for my daughter and I to barely complete
the wild tasks of cajoling all the kids to exit in enough time for our
entourage of Beasts and Angels, plus one toddler, to fast-walk the
fourteen blocks to the East Village Catholic school the two older attend.
We were certain
Matt was born anti-homework/anti-school
We generally ignore Matt’s grouchiness and his reticence to leave
the comforts and warmth of the apartment for the Dante’s Inferno he calls
school. We are sure he was born with nails in his mouth about school, as
many children are.
We also believe he was shorted the
“I-like-going-to-school-gene.” When Matt attended preschool, he also
moaned and groaned. At first his mom and dad (and we grandparents) were
most concerned about his apparent anxieties regarding school. Our family
members have a high regard for education and couldn’t figure out why one
of our own gene pool members balked and complained so much and so often.
Could he be a throwback? A future truant? A Huck Finn of the 21st
As each of the first two school years passed--kindergarten, first
grade-- and the nightly trauma of homework continued to be a challenge for
all, we finally accepted the reality that Matt simply preferred to use his
talents elsewhere than in the confined halls of academia’s structure.
preferred other adventures far more than the disciplines of school and
playing with a toy, reading a book, or playing an adventure far more than
the discipline of sitting in a classroom being force fed information.
From dinosaurs, to Rescue Heroes and now to space ships and Star Trek, he
can’t tolerate the “time” in his words--“wasted on school stuff”--when he
could be utilizing his incredible imagination playing the conceptual games
he creates. He is constantly imparting odysseys as Homer might
have buttered the ears of all his listeners of the great adventures that
lay just over the horizon, just out of sight of reality.
Matt’s mouth and mind are hinged at the same place, neither stopping
unless by sleep or consumption of food, and often food spews out as Matt’s
mouth and mind lubricate all within earshot.
Homework takes too
Another reason for his displeasure with homework is his disinterest
in learning good penmanship. He believes that taking the extra time to
write letters with care is too tedious and “boring.” As he says: “ It
takes too long, G-Ma.”
One might think the Beast of Terror has fought and won the battle
of disenfranchising Matt from school at an early age, but we caretakers
resist surrendering to that thought.
homework doesn’t cause the same havoc within the household She has seen
and heard Matt’s protests and occasionally will follow his lead and
complain. But, for the most part, she completes her homework with little
resistance. I believe she has inherited her mom’s artistic talents. Her
writing, for example, is exceptional for a kindergartner.
accomplish in a much shorter time writing the same number of letters (and
they are beautifully formed) than her older brother who writes like most
doctors. But then, I am prejudiced. I did teach her the expression:
is much better than Matt's
My daughter and her husband are concerned that the time necessary for
Matt to complete his homework was too much for a child his age. The
children’s school has a fine scholastic reputation in New York City.
Homework takes well over an hour each night and sometimes double that
depending on the attitude of the homeworkee.
I recall enjoying my homework. I spent at
least an hour or more a night working on it. But, that was not in
Kindergarten or First Grade (now Matt’s in Second Grade). The amount of
homework from Matt’s teachers is formidable in comparison to what I
recall, yet he’s more than capable of doing it. His teachers discussed
with his parents moving him up a grade, which could mean he’s an
accelerated student or that he’s just too much to handle for them.
The family is in agreement that the Beast of Homework Terror lives
in Matt, and he might be just as incorrigible about it were he bumped up a
grade. Some kids just hate school and its demanding disciplines.
This leaves the Parent of Vigilance with a challenging question:
“How do you turn schoolwork into an act of Vigilance rather than a task of
Activity seems to be the answer to keep the Beast at bay,
especially, Vigilant activities. Vigilant activities are those that force
the Beast of Terror outside the perimeter of a child’s development. They
keep a child’s body and mind busy learning new skills and information so
the Beast of Boredom has little room to make a nest in their mind. This
includes making kids try things they think they don’t want or like, in
hopes they will like them once they find they can do them. It’s kind of
like turning a Doubting Thomas into the Little Engine That Could.
Matt enjoyed rock
climbing lessons for two years
Both Matt and Sarah enjoy many such Vigilant activities in their
young lives. Matt has been “forced” to attend karate, rock climbing,
soccer, piano, acting classes and baseball. Sarah has been in tumbling
and acrobatics for three years, has had a short but enjoyable stint in
ballet and is now taking violin. She played baseball with Matt, who,
during most of the games, was busy eating his glove and watching the
tugboats chug up the East River.
Sarah has enjoyed
gymnastics classes for three years
The family frequently uses season passes to the Bronx Zoo, the
Museum of Natural History, the Botanical Gardens and Central Park Zoo.
The Vigilant activities are those the family does as a unit. Matt
and Sarah are usually eager beavers to go the Natural History Museum or
Bronx Zoo. The idea is not to give Matt or Sarah time to want to
front of the t.v. or think that “time” can be wasted.
As Parents of Vigilance, they are concerned too that the kids do
too much. But what is too much? At what point does Vigilance surrender
to the threat of Terrorism? Leaving children alone invites the Fear,
Intimidation and Complacency demons to attack their vulnerable minds, and
that is the balance point. When are no activities threatening?
Matt threw that issue at me recently.
One afternoon, while picking up Matt and Sarah after school, Matt
“G-Ma, I’ll bet you didn’t have to always go somewhere and always
have to practice, like I do. Blahhhh…. I hate piano and I think acting
class is boring. I want to go home.”
He kicked up his heels and began his usual after-school-dance leaping over
this sidewalk crack and that one, resembling a Steve Martin character in
the movie The Jerk fruitlessly and pitiably trying to “get rhythm.”
“G-Ma, Matt just wants to do his homework and get it over with…”
piped in busybody Sarah…” he has so much work, ‘member?” she said coyly.
“Thank you, Sarah, for your
concern. You are a special sister, that’s for sure.” I reached down
and relieved her of her bright pink Barbie backpack.
Sarah often brings
one of her Barbie dolls to school in her Barbie backpack
“Thank you, G-Ma.”
I decided to answer Matt’s question to let him
know he wasn’t being persecuted by all the “activities” that he often felt
were yokes about his thin, not-yet-developed shoulders.
“Dear Matt and Sarah, I had lots of activities after school. I
played the trumpet and the piano, and even went to tap dance and ballet
Matt had a Rescue
Hero back pack that didn't rescue him from homework
I grabbed hold of one of Matt’s Rescue Hero
backpack straps and managed to remove it from his slender shoulders.
I was afraid the heavy books he carried in the pack might cause him to
fall down and get trampled as he jumped over the cracks and leaned
dangerously to the left and right as though about to fall off a tightrope.
“G-Ma, did you really like doing homework and
going to your other classes? Or did you just want to make your mom and dad
happy?” Matt gave me that curious look of a good defense attorney trying
to impeach a prosecution witness. He was sly in his vernacular, using
questions to pin one against a wall in hopes they would tell the truth and
support his view. After all, what kid doesn’t want to please his or her
parents? And, how many kids cry when there’s a snow day, or the school
is closed because of the hot water pipes broke. But I was wary of Matt.
We all were. His mind was a snare for the unsuspecting, the unskilled
child anti-school negotiator.
Sarah’s head cocked up at me as she walked, stealing toward me a
secret glance, resembling a little colorful finch waiting for the master’s
“coo” to remind the bird it was number one in the household. Sarah’s
chocolate eyes glistened with coquettish interest as her brother
challenged her G-Ma’s accolades toward dreaded “activities. She was aware
Matt had laid out a snare trap and was warning me not to step in it.
I honestly enjoyed
homework when I was little
“Well, little ones, I honestly can say I did like doing my
homework. I was lucky enough to have my own desk in my own room and I
enjoyed the quiet and solitude.
There weren’t any sports classes for girls then, so I thought it was a big
deal to be able to go to dance and music classes.” I grabbed on to
Sarah’s mittened hand and made sure Matt had hold of the strap of his
backpack I was now ferrying for him on my shoulders. The streets of New
York City are like the freeways in Southern California, bumper to
bumper. Children and guardians keep constant physical contact. It’s
part of the Vigilance of Parenthood in a big city.
Sarah came to my rescue before Matt could
attack my love of school and homework and activities that I thoroughly
enjoyed as a child.
“G-Ma, G-Ma what kind of music did you play? What is a ‘trumper’
and did you sound good?” Sarah hopped along imitating her big brother.
“A trum-PET is a small horn, kind of the
size of your violin, Sarah. It has a mouthpiece on it and you blow into
“Like the horns the angels make music with, G-Ma, I know, I know.”
Sarah put her mittens up to her face and made a rhythmic sound: “Blah,
Blah, Blah, Blah, and Blah…. Toot, Toot, Toot. How’s that G-Ma?”
Matt’s face scrunched up like a gnome’s, an expression he seemed to
be born with. He interrupted Sarah’s dissonant performance to gain
control of the conversation again, and to remind everyone that he was “in
charge” of what was talked about.
“Do you use the buttons on the top to change the keys like Sarah
changes where she puts her fingers on her violin’s four strings, G-Ma.
Like in a piano, there are 88 keys and you have - how many buttons?”
Matt is a computer
ship storing data in his brain and retrieving it when it suits him
Matt is a computer chip. Whenever he hears or sees anything from a
person, a book, the radio or television the information, the data is
stored in his brain and retrieved when appropriate. He continues to amaze
everyone he knows with his quick-witted ability and eagerness to utilize
his knowledge to better comprehend something new, even if that means
pretending he knows more than he does. Matt teeters on the brink of
“Hmmm… my trumpet had three ‘buttons’ called valves and valves work
by redirecting air into loops of extra tubing. It’s the curly part of the
horn. When the first valve is pressed it takes in air that I blow into it
through the mouthpiece and redirects it to that valve’s extra tubing and
back into the bell – the wide part of the trumpet. So the valves actually
make the trumpet longer. So a note with no valves down is the highest
note and the shortest valve is the second valve. The third valve is used
with other valves to produce lower notes.”
I didn’t know where Matt was going with the trumpet information.
I only knew for sure that when the conversation was all done, he would
say: “I knew that.” It was his way of saying, “I’m bored now, let’s get
on to something else.”
above demonstrates just how this works. The blue parts of the trumpet
are the parts that air is flowing through. As each valve is depressed,
the air is rerouted.
watched Matt skipping and thinking. He was figuring out what I said in
his own mental Dell Computer, blending form and function into his own
version of reality.
“G-Ma, then the buttons, or valves make the trumpet longer,
right?” I was with Matt at Sarah’s violin lesson last week when he
impressed Sarah’s violin teacher with his questions of how a violin makes
different sounds with only four strings. Now he’s doing the same with me
and my trumpet.
“Matt you are correct. A note with no valves down is the highest
note and the shortest valve is the second one.”
Sarah, not wanting to be left out of the music lesson conversation,
leaped in with her question: “What’s the last one for, G-Ma?”
“Sarah, the third valve is not used by itself. It is used with the
other two to produce lower notes.” I stopped along the way back to their
apartment and simulated on the top of Matt’s backpack how to press each
“I can play your trumpet, G-Ma. Watch me.” Sarah whirled and
twirled on the sidewalk like a graceful gazelle, cupping her mittened
hands around her mouth moving her fingers up and down and softly blowing
into them. All her three-years of gymnastics were being auditioned for
Matt whooped and threw his arms into the air “Sarah, you sound like a
cow, or a goat…. Yuck…stop, please, oh please.”
We all broke out in laughter at her antics.
“OK. G-Ma. I don’t want to hear about your other classes. You took
too long to tell us about your trumpet, Okay”? Matt’s quirky humor caused
me to laugh. I laughed too at myself. He could have been right. I could
have bored him with all the information, but, as a Vigilant Grandparent, I
wasn’t sure what to leave out, so I gave him all I had. He had the best
of my knowledge and maybe he would pick and choose parts I had no idea he
would at some time in the future.
If children ask me
questions, I deluge them with data
I’m not a believer in giving children short answers. If they ask
as question, I give them all the information I can, and, even go to the
computer and find more. Sometimes I deluge them with data, but, when a
child asks a question it seems to me that it is a giant door being opened
by the child to you, the parent or loved one. The child’s question is
like a hand reaching out, eager to be filled with the fruits of knowledge.
Parents who are “too busy” to answer a question, or give it cursory
notice, or, worse yet, backhand the question with “don’t bother me now,”
or, “I’ll tell you later,” are brushing away the child’s eagerness to
learn. The worst example is when a child asks “why” and a parent says
“because.” Why is the most wonderful question in the world. Because is
the most Terrorizing answer, for it means, “shut up and don’t bother me.”
We were nearing the apartment and Matt’s ‘homework groans’
returned. I imagined my Shield of Vigilance held high because sometimes
I felt like saying: “You just do your homework because I said to…or,
because your mother said to…or, because the teacher said to. That is the
easy, Complacent answer. I wanted to avoid a Terroristic answer.
“Yuck, G-Ma, will you set the timer for fifteen minutes like you
usually do, so I can relax before I DO MY HOMEWORK – BORING
–BORING-BORING?” Matt’s strident Voice blared like a foghorn. Sarah
clapped her hands over her ears.
earned a field promotion to Ensign from Captain Picard for his service
to the Enterprise
I decided to weave into the homework trauma something I knew Matt
loved—Star Trek. I spoke in Trekkie Talk: “Roger that,
However, I, Captain Picard, am in command of the bridge of this Starship
and I order you to do your homework. Do you copy?” I liked the clipped,
imperious manner employed by the Captain of the Starship Enterprise on the
Star Trek television series, The Next Generation. Matt and Sarah watch
the reruns most evenings after dinner in the company of their parents.
Wesley Crusher is the young boy on the show who is brilliant in his
understanding of the math and physics of the ship and space, but short on social
get-along-with others skills. His quest for knowledge puts people on
edge, as Matt’s does. Matt is big on the question “why” and not everyone
is willing to answer a seven-year-old’s demands.
“Oh, G-Ma, I only wish I could be Wesley and sit on the bridge of the
Enterprise.” Matt’s woeful expression caused Sarah and me to laugh.
“Matt, Wesley had to study to be so smart and helpful on the
Enterprise. If you were able to ask him, he would undoubtedly agree with
your parents and me that homework is a necessity. So you might as well
accept it.” I helped him off with his bulky coat and set the kitchen
timer for the promised fifteen minute ‘recess’.
Whenever we play
Star Trek, Sarah is Captain
“Well, G-Ma, do you think Captain Janeway had to do homework to be
captain?” Sarah questioned the captain of another Star Trek series –
Starship Voyager. She was out of her bright purple ‘fat coat’ – as she
called it--and was already diving into her Barbie treasures.
“Yup, my little Enterprise cadet, I think homework is a requisite, a
necessity for the entire Starship fleet. Both of you could be in charge of
starships when you grow up, that is, if you do your homework!!” I heaved
their heavy backpacks onto the table and chased them around the small
“Okay, Okay, G-Ma, you made your point. You made your point.” Matt
cagily snatched Sarah’s Yankee Barbie out of her hands and held it out of
her reach. Diversion is often a key tactic in changing the subject, and,
Matt was losing anti-schoolwork ground. Teasing his sister might take
the attention off his weak argument that schoolwork was a “waste.”
“Matt, give her back…Grrrrrr……….G-Ma……..help me…Matt!!” Sarah threw
herself into Matt like a petite tackler for a mini football team and
pushed him to the floor.
“Matt and Sarah, the buzzer is going off, your ‘play time’ is over
you two little rascals. I’m going to ship you off with the next Ferengi
Starship that comes along.”
“Oh, G-Ma, not the Ferengi. I’ll bet they didn’t do any homework to
be garbage haulers”. Matt hopped up to the table along with his sister to
begin their ‘drudgery’.
“Well, G-Ma, maybe if I can be like Wesley, homework might not be so
bad after all.” He flashed his long-lashed sea blue eyes at me with an
“And, G-Ma, I’ll be Janeway, or another Starship important
Sarah pulled her favorite pink-sparkly pencil out of her pencil
case and started on her work. She flashed me one of her
The Star Fleet
Analogy caused Matt to reconsider his animosities ........
“What a grand Starship you both will crew for, you two. Doing your
homework the best that you can will help you in whatever you decide to do,
in outer space or…..”
“…..Or in the inner city, G-Ma. Hah!” Matt joked again.
Now, for just a brief moment, I felt Vigilance had won over
Terrorism. The battle Matt had waged to wear me down and agree that
schoolwork was boring had failed. I was able to use an analogy that made
sense to Matt—the Star Fleet Analogy. If nothing else, Matt respected
the fact I was speaking on his level. He knew I was reaching for his
hand, trying to win him over without beating him on the head with a
And, I was careful to include Sarah. All the arguments in favor
of schoolwork had their effect on Sarah. Had I crumbled and folded my
tent, Sarah might feel less inclined to want to do her homework.
Both could see themselves commanding a Starship, and the way to
the captain’s bridge was through the schoolbooks.
But there was one final suggestion I offered the kids, something
their mother and aunt had learned from G-Pa and me, a lesson handed down
by many others over the past two generations.
It was Rule 62.
The whole idea of Vigilance Activity is to achieve balance…to
enjoy life amidst the storms of madness everyone encounters as we rush
here and rush there to do this and that. Life can be hectic, and, if it
is a full life, it usually is.
Rule 62 is a pressure valve. It let’s everyone let off steam.
It comes from a group of people who made up rules for everything.
There was rule for this and a rule for that, and, of course, consequences
for breaking each rule. Pretty soon everyone started to break rules, and
then tried to argue their ways out of the penalty. More rules were
Ultimately, there were 61 rules, and the rulebook was so big that
it was hard to carry around. One day, the man who started the rules in
the first place, made up Rule 62. He published it to everyone: “Rule
62—Don’t Take Yourself Or Anyone Else Too Darn Seriously!”
That was it.
In the final analysis, when everyone was trying to be right, or
everyone was trying to argue their point, or everyone was at odds with
everyone else, friction created sparks, stress and usually created anger
and frustration for all.
"Rule 62" means
"Stop! Laugh! Enjoy"
Saying “Rule 62” was simply a signal for everyone to cool down, to
laugh at himself or herself, to laugh at everything. It meant, “Stop!
I told the story to Matt and Sarah. “So, when you get all upset
at someone or something, just say ‘Rule 62!’ That means, stop taking
yourself so darn seriously. Laugh. Relax. Enjoy.”
“Yeah….like when Sarah makes me really mad and I want to hit
her…I say, ‘Rule 62?’”
“And when Matt teases me and I get really mad at him, I say
‘Rule 62’”?” chimed Sarah.
“That’s right. But, there is one other time too?”
“When is that?”
“How about when you get all mad about schoolwork. You just say
‘Rule 62 Star Trek Enterprise!’ Now, you can laugh and enjoy doing the
“Beam me aboard, G-Ma,” Matt said. “Me too!” said Sarah.
“Rule 62, transporting two to the ship’s bridge,” I replied, with
a big G-Ma Vigilant smile.
GO TO SOPHIA 27 -
Please, NO Barbie Dolls