Serving the Punch

I’ve been thinking of how to describe my role now in our little house without school.  My child is a teenager, so long gone but well-remembered are the days of taking her to see the Lenape Indian Village, of reading thirty picture books to her in one sitting, of spraying the garden hose on her and her friends while they splashed in the pool and begged me to spray them again. When I think about what has replaced those days for me, well, I think of serving punch.

On The Andy Griffith Show, whenever there was a party, there was always a table on which a punch bowl sat, surrounded by cups and a ladle. Someone was assigned to stand behind that table and serve punch. In the party that is our life here, that someone is me. Perhaps you can picture me as Barney Fife, in his salt-and-pepper suit, for the remainder of this post.

The punch server’s main job is to make sure that there is punch. For me, that means making sure there are books, notebooks, pens, colored pencils, computer paper, ink in the color cartridges, Internet access, DVDs, CDs, and more books. Oh, and let’s not forget movie showtimes, TV listings, information about events happening around town, people with whom to converse, and more books.

Once the punch is in the bowl, the server’s job is to stand behind the table and observe. Sometimes, the party guest approaches the table and serves herself some punch. That’s fine. In such cases, I, the server, simply smile and say “Hi, how are you doing?” Sometimes, the guest asks for punch. In that case, I serve it.

Are you getting this? We’re talking parent-as-facilitator, parent-as-guide kind of unschooling here. I never say “I think you’d better have some punch.” Or “I don’t think now is a good time to be drinking punch.” Never. I also never fill a half-empty cup unless asked to do so.

Sometimes, the punch bowl needs refilling. I do that. But mostly I just stand behind the table and observe. I try to predict whether I have enough punch to make it through the party, or whether I’ll need to mix up a new bowl. I make sure the ingredients are fresh. No soggy lime slices in the punch. Just enough ice. And I give service with a smile.

If the punch is good, it adds to the guest’s enjoyment of the party, and that’s my goal: good punch and a happy guest.

Analogy done. You can stop picturing me as Barney Fife now. Thanks for reading.


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