Esther Netter

Musings from a Museum Savta

“All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten,” continues to be a book that guides me as a grandparent. Its lessons are enduring.

  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours. …
  • Don’t hit people. …
  • Hold hands, stick together. …
  • Share. …
  • Live a balanced life. …
  • Take a nap every afternoon. …
  • Listen. …
  • Treat everyone the way you want to be treated.

This past year I have worked alongside a team of artists, exhibit designers, architects, devoted Board members, educators and dreamers to create the new Cayton Children’s Museum in Santa Monica.  Having worked in the children’s museum field for over 30 years now, I return to Fulghum’s book of wisdoms often.  How easily our teachings from the Cayton layer onto his.  Be your best self. Help others.  Be responsible and active in community.  Cooperate, take turns, be patient.  Be still.  Use your imagination.  Be brave and courageous.  Strive to be a mensch.  And most of all, play your way to a better world.  PLAY, that is how children learn and I know that is how adults learn as well.

In this playscape of a new children’s museum, grandparents get to play, role model, expand imagination and log meaningful time with grandchildren.  30 years ago, when we were creating the Zimmer Children’s Museum, my children were little and I practiced with them which exhibits would stand the test of time.  Now I have the glorious opportunity to practice with my four grandchildren, Noam, Shaya, Eitan and Ilan.  But playing as a grandmother is so much more divine then playing was for me as a parent.

As a grandparent, I play more freely.  As a grandparent, I trust my experience to push boundaries, to explore new activities and to allow the blessings of skinned knees and challenged spirits.  Trial and error are key.  Errors make solid teachers.  I know that now, as a Savta more than I ever did as a parent.  My kids taught me so much about making my way thru this world as a parent.  My grandchildren remind me of those lessons and the gift of being focused in the moment, of being present, of pursuing purpose and significant encounter.  Meaningful play might be the best way to capture time as grandparent.  Whether I am with my grandkids in a children’s museum, or in a park or at home for bedtime, our time spent is always focused, always playful and a constant reminder of those kindergarten lessons for life, “hold hands, stick together and take a nap every day!”

 

Esther Netter, a member of the Jewish Grandparents Network Advisory Committee is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of ShareWell, home of the Cayton Children’s Museum and the youTHink, a California arts education initiative She is Savta (Hebrew for grandmother) to four grandchildren.

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