Serious Research

Writing for children often means doing serious research.  I brought my husband along on a research trip just last weekend.

I carefully observed two little boys, one aged two, the other aged four.

I observed as they woke from their naps, the older boy dapper and ready to meet the world, the younger temporarily speechless with hair looking like someone had taken an eggbeater to it.  I observed the various techniques (a squirt bottle, a brush) used to bring that hair into something resembling a controlled state.

I observed as the younger grabbed a wooden spoon and dug a hole to China through the family room carpet.  I observed as the older boy handed me plastic bricks to build a tower with.

I observed as we prepared for an outing in two cars and both boys, watching the first car pull away and thinking they’d been left behind, had major melt downs.  I observed as they touched the red balls outside the local Target.

I observed the boys in Pizza Hut as they waited patiently for the food to come and then had to wait longer while the pizza that was brought to the table cooled.  I observed as the older boy speared bite-sized bits of pizza and carefully dipped them into his milk to cool them down, determinedly, mechanically, piece by piece…refusing to be deterred from his routine, even after his pizza was stone cold.  I observed the moment when the food had been eaten and we knew we had two minutes (tops) to pay the bill and exit the restaurant or face a major scene.  I observed as the older boy decided not to go to the register to help my husband pay the bill, then changed his mind and was watched, anxiously, by three adults as he found his way through a sea of legs to the pair of legs at the register he immediately recognized.

I observed how long a walk to the park takes when there are fascinating things along the way like sticks and a woman watering her plants.  I observed sliding and climbing and digging and jumping.

You might think that the fact that these two little boys happen to reside with my son and daughter-in-law means this doesn’t count as research…that it was just a family visit.  But that’s just when the best and most serious research happens.