"Rule 62" and "Vigilant Activities"

   SOPHIA - 26

 (Synopsis:  Children and parents have struggled since the dawn of time to communicate on an even keel.   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 Vigilant Activities
G-Ma Lori


        “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 Geographic Channel.

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 a.m.

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 Century.

      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.

Matt simply preferred other adventures far more than the disciplines of school and homework

       He prefers 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 long

       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.        
       With Sarah, 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.
     She can 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:  “Girls Rule!”

Sarah's penmanship 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 Terrorism??
      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 "veg" in 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 groused:
       “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 classes.” 

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 it.”
     “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 egomania.
     “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.”

The illustration 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.

        I 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 valve down.
      “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 the passersby.
     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.

Wesley Crusher 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, Wesley.  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 Janeway (right)

      “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 living room.
     “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 accompanying grin.
     “And, G-Ma, I’ll be Janeway, or another Starship important crewmember, right?”
        Sarah pulled her favorite pink-sparkly pencil out of her pencil case and started on her work.  She flashed me one of her oh-so-special-Sarah-smiles.   

The Star Fleet Analogy caused Matt to reconsider his animosities ........

....on homework and school

       “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 baseball bat.
       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.

Vigilance Activity achieves balance

      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 created.
       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!  Laugh!  Enjoy!”
         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 work.
         “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

©2001 - 2004, VigilanceVoice.com, All rights reserved -  a ((HYYPE)) design