Category Archives: Childhood

Do Children Have An Innate Spiritual Intelligence?

I recently saw the movie Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Adapted from a hugely popular 1970s novel by Judy Blume the film tells the story of an eleven-year-old girl just on the cusp of puberty whose family moves to a new city.

Margaret is anxious and worried about this move as well as about lots of other things. Will she find new friends? Will she ever have a big enough chest to get a bra? When will she get her period?

The role of Margaret in the film is played brilliantly by Abby Ryder Fortson

Margaret starts confiding in God, talking to God almost every night about her worries and concerns and asking God for help.

Margaret’s loving and caring parents played by Rachel McAdams and Benny Safdie

Interestingly however Margaret has had no religious upbringing of any kind. Her father comes from a Jewish family and her mother’s Christian parents disowned Margaret’s mother because she chose to marry a Jewish man.

Because of that Margaret’s parents have brought their daughter up without teaching her about either faith or introducing her to any religion of any kind.

Still………when Margaret finds life overwhelming she turns to God. Where does she get her idea of God? She has never seen her parents pray. Why would she pray? Does she possess a kind of innate spiritual intelligence?

Margaret Sinetar in her book Spiritual Intelligence: What We Can Learn From the Early Awakening Child says that all children show signs of spiritual intelligence whether or not they come from families where they have been taught about religion.

Thomas H. Groome, a professor of theology and religious education at Boston College and author of Educating for Life: A Spiritual Vision for Every Teacher and Parent agrees that children are born with a sort of innate sense of awe and reverence and creativity and an openness to the mystery of the spiritual.

He feels it is important to ground children in a specific religious faith so they have a way to express their innate spiritual intelligence.

Margaret’s grandmother in the film is played by Kathy Bates

For a school project, Margaret does explore various religious faiths, going to a Jewish temple service with her grandmother, to a Presbyterian church service with one friend, and to a Methodist Christmas Eve celebration with another friend. She even pops into a Catholic confessional while following a school classmate. But she doesn’t find what she’s looking for in the institutional church.

At one point pressured by both sets of her grandparents to choose their religion, she declares she doesn’t believe in God anymore.

But…….. by the end of the film when her life has taken a more positive turn she can’t help but send up a prayer of thanksgiving to God.

While writing Anabaptist curriculums for children’s religious education in the 1990s I was introduced to the concept of Godly Play, conceived by Jerome Berryman. It was a unique way of relating stories of faith that encouraged children to question and react and respond to them in their own way without didactic interpretation or instruction from adults.

Godly Play was a method that allowed children to use their imaginations and curiosity to experience the mystery of the divine. It respected children’s innate spirituality.

It was interesting for me to see that idea of children’s innate spirituality highlighted and respected again in the film Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

It is an excellent movie by the way and one I would highly recommend.

Other posts………

Lesson Not Required

Do I Stay Christian? No!

A World of Faith

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Filed under Childhood, Religion

Ten Thoughts on Play

Our son playing Monopoly with his Dad

Play is our brain’s favourite way of learning. – Diane Ackerman

Playing dress up with my cousins on my grandparents’ farmyard.

It is the things we play with and the people who help us play that make the greatest difference in our lives.- Fred Rogers

My grandchildren playing in the water centre at Winnipeg’s Children’s Museum

Play is the highest form of research- Einstein

My sister and I play with building bricks with my Dad

Play is the way to childhood happiness and adult brilliance. – Anonymous

My mother and her sisters having a tea party with their toy dishes

It is a happy talent to know how to play. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

My husband, our niece and her Dad dressed up to play in a fun family golf tournament

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. – Plato

Our son playing with a telescope he built when he was five

Necessity may be the mother of invention but play is certainly the father. – Roger van Oech

My Mom and her sisters with their dolls, probably around 1929.

Play is the work of the child. – Maria Montessori

Playing with my grandson

The best toy a child can have is an adult who gets down and the floor and plays with them. -Anonymous

Our son reading in a fort he built

Children have always learned and created places for themselves through play. – Donna Barnes

Other posts………..

Have You Played Ladder Ball?

Playing Church

Grandma and Grandpa Are Being Children


Filed under Childhood, Family

The Innocence of Childhood

Photo by Laura Kilgus for the Rhode Island Catholic

During the church service yesterday, I was sitting in a pew just behind two families with little children under the age of one. They were both so cute and their mothers were holding them in such a way that they were facing me and the woman beside me in my pew.

We started smiling at the little ones, waving at them and making faces at them and soon they were giving us huge grins and bouncing up and down. It was just a joy to interact with them!

I leaned over to Dorothy the woman beside me and said, “Well it was worth coming to church just for this.”

With Colleen Nelson at my book launch

The experience reminded me of a question my guest host Colleen Nelson asked me at my book launch on Friday. She ended our interview by peppering me with short snapper questions like…. Coffee or tea? Winnipeg in summer or Hawaii in winter? Reading or writing?

And then she asked….. the innocence of childhood or the wisdom of age?

I answered….. the innocence of childhood and talked about how my grandchildren and the children I work with at the Winnipeg Art Gallery play such an important role in my life.

Time with my grandchildren is an important source of my happiness and hope

Experiencing the innocence of children on a regular basis is an essential part of my feeling of well-being. I love how children wear their emotions on their sleeves and take the goodness of others for granted. I find them inspirational and hope-inducing. Being around kids makes me happy!!

With my first class of students in 1973

Talking about it on the phone with my brother later we discussed how sadly for some kids, childhood is not a time of innocence.

My brother and I are former elementary school teachers and certainly, over our long careers in education, we both encountered many children whose innocence had been robbed by tragic circumstances.

It makes me extra thankful that my own grandchildren as well as the two children I saw in church on Sunday have loving parents who are doing everything they can to protect their children’s innocence and joy and…….. because of that, those children in turn bring joy to other people, especially people like me, who are growing old.

The innocence of childhood or the wisdom of age? What would you choose?

Other posts…………

They’ve Sacrificed Their Childhood

Grandma and Grandpa Are Being Children

God Rest the Children


Filed under Childhood, Sixties Girl

Talking to Kids About Menstruation

The Guardian newspaper reported this month that…..Florida lawmakers are considering a draft law to strengthen state control over sex education that its sponsor says would ban any instruction in schools about menstrual cycles before the sixth grade.

My sister and I head off to school on our bikes in 1962. In the 1960s children did not receive any kind of sex education in school.

I got my first period when I was ten. I had not heard anything about what was going to happen to my body in school because it was only in 1967 that some Canadian public schools began to introduce the idea of teaching sex education or reproductive health in classrooms.

Fortunately, however, I had a wonderful wise mother who’d had a frank talk about getting our periods with my sister and me.

My sister and I with our grandmother who came to visit after our little brother was born.

I was nine and my sister was seven when my mother became pregnant with my youngest brother. She read us a book that explained everything about what was happening to her body during her pregnancy and made sure we knew about everything that would happen to our bodies when we reached puberty.

I was away from home for a week when I got my period for the first time and probably would have been scared and worried if Mom hadn’t prepared me. I knew exactly what was going on with my body thanks to her and could ask someone to help me.

I taught grade five for several years and remember two occasions when students got their periods at school and had no idea what was happening to them. They were terrified and crying and thought they were going to die.

I’ll never forget being in the school washroom with both of them trying to comfort them and explain that getting your period was a good thing. One girl was inconsolable.

Their parents had not talked to either girl about menstruation. In the school where I was teaching at the time, it was a topic discussed in sixth-grade health.

A recent article in The New Yorker claimed research shows that on average around 30% of girls are getting their first period already at the age of eight.

In my new novel Sixties Girl, a girl gets her period for the first time in one of the chapters. I consulted both a rural and city middle-grade school teacher about whether to leave that incident in the book and they both encouraged me to do so.

They told me how important it was to talk to kids about menstruation in a matter-of-fact way and that both boys and girls needed to learn it was something natural and good and normal.

I hope that Florida as well as other states who are considering changes to their sex education curriculums will take into account the importance of making kids aware of what will happen to them with the onset of puberty. It is not something that should make them scared or anxious. They need to be prepared so they know menstruation is a normal part of growing up.

Other posts…….

Susie’s Babies

Banning Books for Kids

Include Me Please

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Filed under Childhood, Education, Health

Drawing Kids Into Art Galleries

My husband Dave walking up to the South African Art Gallery

One of the things that really impressed me about the South African Art Gallery in Cape Town is they had an entire room set up especially for kids.

The artworks were all installed at a height that would allow children to easily see them and study them without craning their necks to look up.

A special sign welcomed children and told them the room was just for them.

Flying the Kite by Laura Knight

The artworks were chosen with kids in mind.

Edward and His Cat- Artist Unknown

Some were portraits of children and animals.

The Screaming Child by Irma Stern

As I looked at this piece of a child screaming I could just hear kids asking, “Why is she screaming?” “What made her so mad?”

The Story of the Money Pig by Thomas Gotch

There were paintings to intrigue. In this painting called The Story of the Money Pig a woman is telling two girls a story that may come from the book by her lap and the piggy bank on the sand obviously figures into the story. But how?

The Champion by Peter Clark

There were bright bold prints.

Untitled by Simon Jones

There were pieces with blank faces so the children could imagine themselves in the painting.

Playground by Jansje Wissema

They had included photographs that reflected the children from various backgrounds who might be coming to visit the art gallery.

In order to stay viable in the future it is important for art galleries to attract children and young people as patrons.

I thought the children’s room at the South African gallery was a unique way to try and do that and one that other galleries might do well to emulate.

Other posts………..

Kids Are Creative

Two Artists- Me and My Grandson

Warli Art- Kids Love It and You Will Too

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Filed under Art, Childhood

Grandma and Grandpa Are Being Children

When our family was together over Christmas we all walked to a neighbourhood park near our son and daughter-in-law’s Winnipeg home to play in the snow with the children. My husband Dave and I spied a pair of swings and promptly sat down and started pumping till we were quite high in the air.

“Oh look,” our ten-year-old grandson said pointing to us and calling out to the rest of the family, “Grandma and Grandpa are being children.”

Our grandson’s comment got me thinking about whether it was a good thing that we were ‘being children’ because adults are sometimes chastised for ‘behaving like a child.’

My husband acting like a kid with some refugee kids we worked with in Hong Kong

A little online research revealed that sometimes ‘acting like a kid’ is good for you no matter how old you are.

British therapist Adam Eason says being playful and childlike can relieve stress, help you feel younger, stimulate your imagination, enrich interpersonal relationships, and give you more energy.

Playing in the mud with sister-in-law and brother-in-law in Costa Rica

Dr Stuart Brown has written a book called Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. He says playing isn’t just for children. We all need to play like kids at times if we are going to flourish.

Dr Brown has interviewed thousands of people about the role of play in their lives. He says playing with the passion and fun-loving spirit of a child helps foster social skills, intelligence, creativity and problem-solving.

According to him adults especially need to play like children during challenging times in their lives because it helps them remain optimistic.

Marelisa Fabrega is a lawyer and entrepreneur with a blog called Daring to Live Fully. She has some good suggestions for adding child-like fun to your life.

My son and his wife puzzling with my parents

One is to have a play drawer where you keep jigsaw puzzles, colouring books, paper and paints, adult playdoh (yes there is such a thing) and Lego. She encourages adults to take time to indulge in an activity from their play drawer regularly.

Mini-golfing with my friends

She suggests play dates with friends where you visit a playground, go mini-golfing, go tobogganing or ride your bikes.

Giving my grandson an ‘aeroplane ride’ when he was two

Marelisa also recommends hanging out with kids as a surefire way to start ‘acting like a kid’ yourself.

I LOVE the fact that our grandson thought his grandpa and I were being children on those swings. We probably need to do that more often.

Other posts……….

Have You Played Ladder Ball?

Tree Children

Fun Times With Paul and Shirley

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Filed under Childhood, Family, Reflections, Retirement

In Praise of Unfinished Basements

My sons get ready to play pool in the unfinished basement of their aunt and uncle’s home this Christmas at an extended family gathering. The space is scheduled for renovation in 2023.

The New York Times ran an op-ed recently called In Praise of Unfinished Basements. The author Brady Brickner-Wood talks about how he loved the unfinished basement of his childhood home. It was a place to play and imagine and pretend.

There was something about its unfinished status that gave it a certain allure. He says the unfinished basement was a place where life was more than what it seemed.

Our son and his cousin playing in the unfinished basement of their grandparents’ house after our family Christmas dinner in the space

That got me thinking about the role unfinished basements have played in my life. Houses were smaller when I was a child and until I was twelve I always lived in a home with an unfinished basement. My grandparents had homes with unfinished basements too.

Because in the past rooms in houses were much smaller than they are now, and usually closed off from one another with doors, it was in unfinished basements that families often gathered for special celebrations because it provided a large, open space for everyone to be together.

I remember Christmas celebrations in the basement of my maternal grandparents’ little house.

1950s Christmas dinner in my grandparent’s basement- note the cement walls, open rafters and electric cords strung through the ceiling
A 1960s Christmas in my grandparents’ unfinished basement. I am on the far left in hair ribbons pulling the wishbone from the turkey with my cousin.
Posing by the tree with my cousins in my grandparents’ basement in 1961

Basements weren’t just for holiday celebrations. In the photo below my mother has decorated the unfinished basement of our house for my birthday party the year I turned nine.

My parents’ wedding reception was held in the unfinished basement of a church.

Unfinished basements were often places to work as well. That’s where you did laundry, woodworking and home repairs and as illustrated in the photo below taken in my parents-in-law’s basement it was a place to do canning.

My son watching his great-grandmother make pickles

Unfinished basements are becoming rarer as people update and renovate them. Do you have memories of an unfinished basement?

Other posts………

Life and Death of a House on the Prairie

The House on the Highway- My First Home in Steinbach

My Grandmother Was a Guitarist

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Filed under Childhood, Family

They’ve Sacrificed Their Childhood

David Letterman interviews Volodymyr Zelensky in a Kyiv subway station-photo from Netflix

Last night I watched David Letterman’s interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Netflix. It’s a fascinating conversation. At one point Letterman asks the president about his family and Zelensky says it is only when he is talking with his wife and children on the phone that he feels normal, that he feels like he can actually breathe.

David Letterman asked the Ukraine president if he discusses the war with his children and he replied that it is impossible not to do so. The children of Ukraine, he says, know more about the war than their parents.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky with his family before the war

“The children of Ukraine are deeply immersed in the war. My nine year old son knows the names of all the weapons and he didn’t learn them from me. Vladimir Putin has stolen childhood from the children of Ukraine. “

President Zelensky goes on to tell David Letterman that every Ukrainian has made sacrifices for their country. “Our children,” he says, “have sacrificed their childhood.”

And isn’t that the way it always is. War robs children of their childhood. I have seen that over and over again in different places in the world.

Photo by Yannis Behrakis. I took a photo of this image at an art exhibit in Dubrovnik.

A boy looks through a bullet hole in a bus window during the Kosovo War from 1998-1999 when the Albanian Kosovo separatists supported by the United Nations fought for independence from Yugoslavia.

War Dread of Mothers by George Roualt. I photographed this artwork on my visit to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

 George Rouault painted Wars- Dread of Mothers nine years after World War I when his country of France was already involved in two new wars one in Congo and another in Lebanon.  The painting alludes to the Madonna and the infant Jesus and a line from the Odes of Horace an ancient Roman poet who wrote that while some rejoice at the sounds of war mothers detest them. 

A child’s burned tricycle I photographed at the Peace Museum in Hiroshima

Tricycle ridden by a child in his front yard when the bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 during World War II.  Thousands of children died in Hiroshima that day and thousands more died later from the effects of the radiation they were exposed to.

I photographed Khom at a landmines museum in Cambodia

Khom was our guide at a landmines museum in Cambodia. He had lost his arm at age five from a land mine explosion. The landmines were planted during the Pol Phot regime after a 1975 conflict in which the Khmer Rouge took over the country from the monarchy.

I photographed these stumbling stones in Frankfurt Germany

These stumbling stones have been placed in the sidewalk outside the homes of Holocaust victims in Frankfurt.  You are meant to ‘stumble’ over them as you walk and then stop and read the names of people who died as a result of the Holocaust during World War II. The family remembered with these stones was deported to Auschwitz and included three children.

I photographed this sculpture in the Vietnam Military History Museum in Hanoi

This sculpture shows a Vietnamese man going off to war. His mother and his child hang onto his arms. The Vietnam war lasted for twenty years- 1955-1975. Thousands of children lost their lives and countless others became orphans because their parents were killed.

David Letterman and President Zelenskyphoto from Netflix

David Letterman’s interview with President Zelensky of Ukraine was a good reminder that while adults start wars- it is children who pay the highest price for them.

Other posts……….

A Lifeline Then and Now

Ukraine- Exploring the Past- Mourning the Present

Thinking About Kyiv

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Filed under Childhood, Ukraine

Come On Manitoba Let’s Get With the Program

I wasn’t surprised when the Child Care Coalition of Manitoba called a news conference recently to expose the provincial government’s ineptitude in distributing the new federal subsidy for daycare.  

Susan Prentice from the Child Care Coalition of Manitoba speaks about the fact that daycare fees in Manitoba have not changed by even a cent for most parents. The chart behind her shows how in contrast rates in Ontario and most of the other provinces have fallen considerably for all parents. photo by Ian Froese for the CBC

I wasn’t surprised to learn Manitoba wasn’t getting the federal dollars for daycare into parents’ hands because I have two granddaughters in daycare, one in Saskatchewan and one in Manitoba.  My children in Saskatchewan noticed a substantial drop in their daughter’s daycare fees, as did all Saskatchewan parents, shortly after their province signed a childcare agreement with Ottawa, but….. my children in Manitoba have received no price reduction at all in the fees for their daughter’s care.

In September I was visiting my niece in Ontario who owns a private daycare facility.  She spoke positively about how the federal subsidy was lowering rates for all her clients.

My anecdotal family evidence had me wondering why Manitoba daycare fees hadn’t been reduced like those in other provinces.  Now I know.  

Apparently, the Manitoba government wanted to be sure the federal money went to the neediest families. That’s admirable.  But they set the bar for what was needy at a level that meant few families could qualify.  

Then they failed to advertise properly, so most parents weren’t even aware they qualified, and finally, they made the red tape and paperwork for both parents and daycares so onerous that applying for the subsidy was a challenge. 

My member of Parliament Leah Gazan spoke to the House of Commons on November 30th about the importance of federal funding for daycare being used to improve wages and benefits for childcare workers, – From Leah Gazan’s Instagram page

The province also didn’t use the money to add more childcare workers, increase their wages, or improve their working conditions and benefits.  My member of Parliament Leah Gazan raised that concern in the House of Commons just last week. 

So…. most of the federal money Manitoba received to lower daycare fees and improve the quality of child care is sitting in the bank untouched, while in places like the Yukon they have already fully implemented a maximum $10 daily fee for all families, have created 236 new childcare spaces with their federal funding and have increased the wages of fully qualified childcare workers to $30.00 an hour.  

Some people have speculated Manitoba’s Conservative party didn’t want to make the Liberal leaders in Ottawa look good so they deliberately took steps to insure the daycare program the Trudeau government funded wasn’t successful.  

I don’t buy that, because as my family’s experience proves, Conservative governments in Saskatchewan and Ontario have successfully lowered all daycare fees.  In fact, it would probably be wise for the Stephenson government to consult with their politically aligned counterparts in other provinces, for guidance on how to make better use of the federal daycare subsidy. 

Image from the Toronto Star illustrating the labour shortage across Canada

The news is filled with stories about businesses and medical facilities and hundreds of Manitoba employers who are having trouble finding workers for vacant positions.

Many parents were forced to quit their jobs during the pandemic to care for their children. If we want to encourage them to return to work, we have to insure daycare in our province is affordable and high quality.  Doing so makes economic sense. 

I’d like to believe the daycare fee subsidy was ineffectively implemented in Manitoba due to a lack of planning and organization which can happen when you are trying to figure out how to administer a new program.

Political cartoon by Chuck Chukry speculating on why the province isn’t spending the federal daycare subsidy to reduce fees for parents

I’d prefer to discount the nefarious political motivations some social media sites have suggested for the botched rollout.  

However, now that the shortcomings of the Manitoba plan have been clearly exposed and other provinces and territories are providing models for more efficient and successful ways of lowering daycare fees and improving services for all families, we should expect our province to move quickly to make the necessary changes required. 

Hopefully, soon the parents of my Manitoba granddaughter will see the same reduction in daycare fees the parents of her cousin in Saskatchewan are already enjoying. 

Other posts………..

Kids of Career Moms Are Okay

I Shook Her Hand

Universal Child Care A Wise Investment for Canada


Filed under Childhood, manitoba, Politics

The Christmas Books

Yesterday on the first Sunday of advent each of our grandchildren got a Christmas book and a pair of Christmas socks from their grandfather and me.

Every November I enjoy looking at children’s books for the holiday season old and new and picking just the right one for each grandchild.

A huge thank you to my online middle grade author community who brought The Vanderbeekers by Karina Yan Glaser to my attention. It was the book I chose for my ten-year-old grandson. A lively family with five children finds out just before Christmas they are about to be evicted from their brownstone apartment in Harlem. The kids begin a campaign to convince their grouchy landlord Mr. Beiderman to change his mind. They get pretty creative!

Dasher a New York Times bestseller by Matt Tavares was my choice for my six-year-old grandson. Dasher is a young doe whose family works and travels under the hot sun with the circus. Dasher’s mother tells her daughter stories about her own very different childhood. She lived where the ground was covered with snow and her family could see the glow of the North Star. Dasher runs away and follows the North Star. When she meets Santa a whole new life begins for her.

For my three-year-old granddaughter I chose Happy All-Days by Cindy Jin which introduces readers to all the different winter holidays that different families from different backgrounds and cultures celebrate including Christmas and Chanukah and Kwanzaa.

I thought I knew all of Robert Munsch’s books but I had never read Finding Christmas which is told in his usual engaging style with a funny twist at the end. The book is illustrated by Munsch’s long time collaborator Michael Martchenko.

For my youngest grandchild who just turned two I picked The Christmas Baby by Marion Dane Bauer. It tells the traditional nativity story but relates the birth of Jesus to the birth of every child.

Perhaps my favourite pick this Christmas is I’m Going to Give You a Polar Bear Hug written by Caroline Cooney and illustrated by Tim Warnes. With lovely lilting rhyming text it tells the story of a child who gets hugs from all kinds of winter animals- a reindeer, a polar bear, a fox, an arctic hare, a penguin and a seal.

My other grandchildren live in Saskatchewan but the youngest is here in Winnipeg so I got to read I’m Going to Give You a Polar Bear Hug to her yesterday and she smiled and named the animals along with me and asked to read it again when we were done. Clearly a winner!

Other posts………….

Christmas Books- 2019

Advent Books- 2020

Christmas Classics for Kids

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Filed under Books, Childhood, Holidays