Synopsis--G-Ma faces a dilemma--"what to do
when the children want to build Twin Towers and destroy them?" Her
instincts are to step in and stop the "play," but the lesson she learns teaches
her children know the difference between "good" and "evil."
BUILDING BLOCKS OF VIGILANCE
A lesson from the children about “good” versus “evil”
October 30, 2001
A set of blocks was given to my grandson, Matt,
by his favorite aunt, Auntie “E”. “E”, short for Erin, and bought him a
fine set of rugged, thick wooden blocks obviously hewn from a great, strong
tree. Manly blocks, for a guy I call “my little man.”
At five, Matt plays
with block sets and constructs his tower buildings
Now, at five, Matt deftly arranges the blocks
in various architecturally sound combinations. He creates ramps, garages,
roadways for his cars; train yards and buildings to complement his Thomas
Trains set; walls and city structures for his Puzzletown Airport; and most
recently, constructs high, very high tower buildings.
“G-Ma, ‘c’mon, let’s play. What do you want to make?” Matt assumes
I want to play. He’s wise enough not to ask, as any five-year-old who
doesn’t care the age of his or her playmate. “Playing” has no age, color,
religious, ethnic or political borders to a child with a set of strong,
manly blocks and a vivid imagination.
I went along and decided I’d play, but avoid any high construction.
Neither I nor Matt needed any reminders of what used to be the tallest
buildings in New York City or what happened on September 11 when the
“Let’s made ABC’s, G-Ma,” pitched
“Make, Sarah…make ABC’s,” I corrected, as good G-Ma teachers are
“Okay…let’s MAKE ABC’s, G-Ma.” She exaggerated the correction to let
me know she got it. Her amazingly practical suggestion was perfect and we
‘three amigos’ constructed letters that could be made in block form. For a
good portion of the time we built letters such as “B,” “C,” “I,” “ J,” “
L,” “T,” “U” and “ Z.
“Sarah, only standup letters,” screeched perfectionist Matt, as Sarah
attempted to create her S.
for Sarah, G-Ma,” she pouted as the “S” crumbled to the floor.
Undeterred, she rearranged the blocks adding more to her next
creation, and announced matter-of-factly to us, “G-Ma, look, I’m making the
castle tall buildings.”
“Sarah, you are taking all of our letter blocks. We’re making letters
now, not buildings.” Matt was outraged. Sarah was making up her own
game—creating buildings. She had the mind of a butterfly, flitting from
this game to that, where Matt was all concentration, usually demanding to
finish what he started. We still hadn’t done the complete alphabet, but
that didn’t matter to Sarah. She was off on another adventure—building
Sarah laughed and used one of Matt’s cars to topple her “S”
building. “Crash, smash,” she shouted. That caught Matt’s attention.
“Great, Sarah, that’s a neat game. Let’s build the two towers again
and you smash one and I’ll smash the other one.”
I wanted to scoop up the whole lot of blocks, but held back. Was I
being paranoid, imaging they were playing ‘terrorist’? I also didn’t want
to encourage the innocent children slamming down buildings similar to the
evil actions by the Manhattan marauders of a month ago, but I also wanted to
know what was going on in their minds—what they were thinking about the
event, how they interpreted it. The blocks might just tell me what their
viewpoint was, and how they had internalized the events.
I had played with blocks over forty years ago with my two brothers.
We schemed, plotted and created scenarios of the’ bad guys’ creating havoc
and evil. Buildings, towns made of blocks were knocked down, tromped on and
flattened. Whole communities were kicked down a flight of stairs – all in
fun, make believe. Had this kind of tough play helped to mold me into an
unkind, intolerant person? Is it wrong for young children to play in like
manner, I thought? Am I a ‘bad grandma’ allowing my grandchildren to play
‘these kinds of games’? As a Sentinel of Vigilance, I tossed a handful of
questions in the air, not sure what to catch or let drop. I knew
overreacting wasn’t the answer.
I searched for a quick solution and remembered why my mother allowed
such play and let Matt and Sarah continue. I would steer the game, be its
coach, umpire, referee. I would turn it into a lesson as my mother had for
my brothers and me.
The kids began to build their buildings, stacking an array of blocks
as high as possible.
“Matt, what happens next? Who will save your city,” I asked.
His blue eyes sparked with delight. His imagination was enviable and
he mischievously answered, “Destructasaurus, G-Ma, it’s Destructasaurus who
breaks the towers.”
“Ah, yes, it was,” I sighed. “But, my question is, who will
help the city and the people,” I countered.
“G-Ma, G-Ma, I’m thinking of the name. I saw it in a Winnie the Pooh
video when Piglet was afraid to look at it in the movie Christopher Robin
took them all to. ….it’s…it’s..”
“I know, I know,” shrieked Sarah.
Matt, along with
Godzilla, was solving the dilemma of the city of blocks
“Sarah, Sarah, NO, I get to say the
name. G-Ma, it’s…..GODZILLA, yes, GODZILLA. G- Ma, do you get it? G – O –
D!! GODZILLA!! See, G-Ma, G – O – D spells GOD! GOD is good so GODZILLA
“Godzilla is a good monster, G-MA,” Sarah echoed her brother.
In utter amazement, I realized Matt who was newly in the process
of learning how to read but already a master of reasoning, was solving the
dilemma of the city of blocks.
“G-Ma we can have our dinosaurs watch for more
of the ‘bad guys’ and place them all around the city. Maybe some can be in
Staten Island to protect Grampa Joe and Nana….and in Connecticut where Eamon
and Micah and their mommy and daddy live…and even far away in Montana where
your mommy and daddy live.
Matt was on a roll. He chanted out the towns
and people breathlessly, his imagination fired. He jumped up in excitement,
eyes dancing: “Oh yes, G-Ma we can have the guards wear the Semper
Vigilantes bands on their arm, um... ..uh..forelegs..”
He lifted up his leg to show me what he meant.
“And get this, G-Ma, Godzilla’s eyes are like a TV
antennae…they…they get warnings from the guard dinosaur…and…and then
Godzilla will be wherever he is needed. We’ll always be safe.”
Sarah didn’t even look up. She chimed in as though on cue in a
pre-rehearsed scene the two had practiced delivering for weeks. “My mommy,
daddy, G-Pa, G-Ma, Auntie “E”, and Godzilla will keep us safe, “ Sarah
nodded her head, reassuring me that the game they were going to play had a
“good” not “bad” intent.
“Oh, G-Ma, guess what we played at school today, it’s something
about the towers too,” Matt was eager to share the events of his school day
with me. I looked forward to his stories each afternoon I picked him up.
It was his energy, enthusiasm for life that gave me my tune up for the rest
of the day.
“We played a game of letters and our teacher… Ms. McMahon wanted
to test us. We were supposed to tell her which letter a word started with,
like desk starts with the letter “D”. One of the girls, Samantha
tried to trick Teacher. Samantha asked Teacher what word starts with a ‘T’…
Twin or Towers. Ms. McMahon said that was very tricky but both did.”
I marveled at the good sense Matt’s teacher exhibited by
not making any big deal over Samantha’s choice of words. She could have
commented on the two ‘T’ words, but didn’t. I was again reminded of my
lesson of the day. The lesson I was relearning through interaction with my
grandchildren was that “good” wins out over “bad;” good overpowers evil and
protection is the result of vigilance.
In my days, The
Masked Rider saved my town
thought back to my days of playing “destruction blocks.” Back then, The
Masked Rider rode in on his black stallion to save my town as my mother
stood by as a Parent of Vigilance over the ‘rough play’. Now, nearly a
half-century later, Godzilla protected Matt’s and Sarah’s city and the other
children’s cities of the world. Back in the 1940’s, the Masked Rider needed
his posse to wear badges to help protect the city, and in 2001, Godzilla
needed dinosaurs, parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts and concerned
citizens to be Semper Vigilantes.
I began to see what Matt’s teacher had done at school.
She didn’t turn the “T”-word into “Terrorists,” or “Terror,” or “Turmoil,”
or “Trouble.” She faced the words courageously, not hiding anything from
the children to cause them to snicker or think the adults were keeping
something from them. She called a Twin Tower a Twin Tower. She was
Vigilant, and didn’t entice or excite fear or apprehension or become
intimidated by the truth. And the kids just went about their business, as
we had as children fifty years ago, and as Matt and Sarah were doing today.
Matt and Sarah
were being guarded and
protected by powers far beyond my reach
“Hey, Matt and Sarah, maybe Daddy Joe will play blocks with us when
he gets home,” I said. “
He would love to learn how to play GODZILLA with
“Yes,” Matt said. “He likes to play games
about protecting us.”
“Daddy loves us,” Sarah said. “Daddy is
I smiled as I watched them play Destructasaurus.
I knew they were being watched and guarded and protected by powers
far beyond my reach. And I think they knew it too.
To Sophia 6: "Wash Your Hands, Please!"
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