What a great box!

When I arrived at my daughter’s house the other day to watch her boys for a few hours, there was a box at the front door that must have just been delivered. I brought it inside with me and there were puzzled looks because no one remembered ordering anything. Inside was some swag my son-in-law had won at work, a nice perk. Plus – a nice box.

As soon as he unpacked the content of the box, one of my grandsons climbed in and curled up. He almost fit in the box! He then turned it over and hid underneath the box, as if he were some kind of turtle. Then both boys climbed in the box and rocked around like they were in a boat of some sort. It was as if someone had flipped the creativity switch in their little minds and turned an ordinary, reused box into the toy of the year!

And then I had a flashback. Suddenly it was 1990, I was living in Connecticut, and I was taping together all kinds of larges cardboard boxes to form a fort or spaceship or castle for my two older children when they were of preschool age. We fashioned doors from the ends, cut windows in the sides, colored pictures and furniture inside and created a playscape that entertained them for days. I don’t know if they remember that time, but in my mind it’s like yesterday.

Why is it that the container is more fun than the contents? This is a profound question for parents and grandparents who invest a lot in toys for our kids and grandkids. Is it because of the creative possibilities? A single box can be any number of different vehicles, structures or projectiles. Is it because you can go for broke? In other words, if you destroy the boxes, who cares? It was destined for recycling anyway! Is it because they are bigger than you and you can get in them? You can step into an alternate reality if you’ve got a box to play in!

The best box we ever had delivered to our house was about 5 ft. x 4 ft. x 2 ft. It was filled with packing peanuts and…wait for it…a tuba. My son was going to music school, needed a decent tuba and we bought one from the Baltimore Brass Works. They delivered the instrument to our home and dropped it off in front of the garage. I don’t remember what we did with that box or all those packing peanuts. But I’d like to buy another tuba just to take delivery and see the look on my grandchildren’s faces when they see that box and imagine the possibilities!

Toddlers, tortellini, and toys

The other night, I go to hang out with all three of my grandkids for a few hours. Their parents headed out to see the lights in St. Augustine, my wife had a meeting, and they wondered, “Can you watch them for a few hours?” Without a moment’s hesitation, I replied, “Yes!” I don’t get that kind of opportunity very often.

At ages one, two, and three, they really don’t play together. For the first half-an-hour or so, each wanted to play with what another had, but eventually they settled down with their own. After a bit, time for some music. I got out my guitar to sing songs, but no one really wanted to sing with me. Instead, they wanted to run laps around the living room, chasing or running from me as I played. Then it’s time for food.

IMG_8147Tortellini (with “dip”), strawberries and green beans were a hit, everyone wanting seconds. Once supper is over, a few episodes of Paw Patrol kept them quiet for a moment as I cleaned up supper.

My wife was the first adult human to return home, amused and perhaps a bit dismayed at the number of toys strewn around the house. Cars, pretend food, zoo animals, farm animals, action figures, balls, flashlights, a doll house, trains, pretend ice cream cones, kid-friendly power tools, books, lab coats and medical equipment, dinosaurs and a pretend Keurig are all needed to keep everyone busy for a while. Yep, we used them all! (Side note: it doesn’t take three to get and leave out all the toys. One can do the job just as well!)

As a grandparent, I relish these moments not only because they are fun and fill me with joy, but because I know they are rare. As a parent, you feel like you’ve got a lot of time to spend with your kids as eighteen-plus years stretches out in front of you. But as a grandparent, you know those years will fly, so you savor those moments when you have them.