Attentive little boy with weird hair researching the bug using magnifier isolated on white

Lessons From a Two-Year-Old

I gave my son and daughter-in-law lots of gifts when their son Elijah was born. But none has come back to bless me more than the Gift of Friday. Since he was six weeks old, I’ve closed the door to work on Fridays to care for and learn from my grandson, Eli.Attentive little boy with weird hair researching the bug using magnifier isolated on white

In these two years, Eli and I have explored our neighborhood looking for cats, dogs, bugs and birds. We’ve met neighbors we didn’t know and found the skunk we knew existed but had never seen. We’ve played at the park, counted planes, and listened for fire engines.

Last week, we took a walk to the 99 Cents Only store to see if we could find anything from the movie “Toy Story.” I was fully prepared to shell out a buck or two if indeed, we could find anything. I figured it was doubtful, given the kind of store it is. But the most amazing thing happened.

Before we could even get through the door, Eli locked eyeballs with Buzz and Woody on a gift bag. I was surprised and reacted with great drama, which made him laugh hysterically. As we walked up and down the aisles, Eli made one “Toy Story” discovery after another.

I would have never noticed the things he found, from photo albums to stickers, books, pencils, gift bags, cups, plates, cards, key chains and other Toy Story-branded trinkets. The more things he found, the more I reacted, which only spurred him on.

Here is where Eli and I are not at all the same: He didn’t want any of these things. He just loved finding them. The fun of discovery became its own reward. I, on the other hand, have some kind of automatic response mechanism that insists that if I love it, I must then buy it.

I learned a couple of important lessons from Eli that Friday.

First, I don’t have to own things to enjoy them. Isn’t that an amazing thought? And it goes the other way, as well. Just because I don’t own it doesn’t mean I cannot enjoy it from afar. Second, often there’s greater value in doing things together, than in owning things.

Creating this little game, and then beating me at it over and over, provided Eli with so much fun and enjoyment, the thought of actually buying all that stuff didn’t seem to cross his mind. He loved doing more than getting.

After a half-hour of treasure hunting, Eli took a ride on the 50-cent mechanical horse, and we walked home. On the way, between taking in the wonders of bugs on the sidewalk and trying to decide if it might rain, he said, “Ahma, that was a fun store. Go again next week?”

You bet we will, Eli. And next week we’ll look for cars, trucks, and anything green. And we’ll count the cracks in the sidewalk and look for caterpillars.

We’ll laugh and run and count to 20. We’ll enjoy every minute and make memories for a lifetime without having to buy a thing.


I wrote the foregoing in my journal more than 11 years ago. In what seems like the blink of an eye, Eli is now 13.

Since then, little brother Sam has joined our Fun Friday Adventures. While it has little resemblance to the 99 Cents Only store, Costco is the place Sam, now age 7, and I look for hidden treasure.

Sam prefers Mickey Mouse to Toy Story, and sure enough, without fail, he discovers that mouse over and again on merchandise, posters, a raincoat, and displays that I would never notice in a million years!

Another Update 7-7-23

Elijah Hunt recently graduated from 8th grade and today turns age 14. Next? High School. He has been accepted into a Classical American Charter School … into the Honors Program starting with 4 AP Classes plus symphonic band. Proud? Oh, just a little!



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  1. Maryann Oliverio says:

    Hi Mary
    I always enjoy your smart advice and the knowledge you so willingly share with us. This, by far, has been my favorite column. You are blessed to have these fun little boys in your life to keep you young and they are equally blessed to have such a fun and smart grandmother! Childhood is so fleeting! Enjoy and continue making wonderful memories.
    Thank you for all you do.

  2. VICKEY NELSON says:

    I always feel “creating memories” far outweighs buying expensive stuff for kids. That stuff will be gone, but those memories will last a lifetime for the child. Remember when Grandma and I did.

  3. SWebber says:

    When my granddaughter was 7-8 years old, she loved to “shop” for clothes. When I had a chance to be with her we would go to the stores she liked, she would pick out a complete outfit, shoes, purse, etc., she would try them on and Model them. I would take her picture, multiple poses, then she would return the items to the shelf and we would go on our way. What fun for both of us! Precious memories!

  4. mydesoto says:

    My gramma/grandchild memories were made on the road. I started taking them on one day road trips around our state when they were still in the car seats and diapers. We played road trip games…. like “we’ve never been down this road before”, which means we immediately took a turn and drove down that road. Often when we started out there was no destination….and the direction we took, be it left or right out of the drives way was determined by the flip of a coin as was many of the following turns. We never hesitated to stop and see something interesting, even if it meant we didn’t make it to our destination if we had one. We figured there was always next time…which was never more than a month away.They are now 21 and 22, one is married with two boys of her own….which I now take on little “fun trips”, but not with out the grandchildren and the grandson in law. They still don’t want to be left behind. I have a mini van now, …..otherwise I couldn’t take them all, and that would be unforgivable. Now the little ones are playing the games while the big ones are busy with “remember when” memories. Great fun being a gramma.

  5. Betty Thomas says:

    I am lucky enough to spend time with my grandkids and we do many of the same things you do with Eli and Sam. I love the lessons they teach me. Time with them is priceless and they will remember it too. Being a Grandma is the best. Thanks for sharing Mary!

  6. UncommonSensesc says:

    What a sweet, heart-warming story! I enjoyed this story so much – it reminds me that everyone needs to slow down and if you can’t look at things a little differently to see what you’ve been missing, be sure to have someone with you that can! I think times like this, with grandparents and their grandkids, teach the grandkids about life, about love, about so much more than school and books ever could or will!

  7. Judy Swanson says:

    Our grandaughter(one that lives in our state) is now 4. Since she was about 2 we have had what we call Grandma and Grandpa days with her or Tuesdays wuth Addie. I usually take her to a story time which includes songs, snacks and a craft at a local used bookstore. We roam the store after story times and discover interesting things together. Then we meet grandpa for lunch at “Old McDonald’s” as she likes to call it. She plays on the structures and with the other children, many witht their grandmas and grandpas also. In the afternoons we play in the backyard with bubbles or hunting for special rocks or playing hide and seek. These are truly special times we cherish and she does too. I wish all children could have such special, unfettered times with grandmas and grandpas. It is one of life’s greatest blessings and will be a special memory for her someday. Next year she will be in school and her sister, Anna, will be about ready for her grandma and grandpa days. Our only regret is that we can’t have these same weekly times with our other grandchildren who live two states away. We try to do special things witht them when visiting but unscheduled time is always less available to make it relaxed and unscripted. So we do give thanks for being able to develop this memory making with those who live nearby.

  8. Jeannie says:

    Love your article. Innocent and profound stuff at the same time. For me, I feel humility and peace within when I am enjoying something “from afar” without the struggle of feeling like I have to have/own it. This attitude takes work but it’s very rewarding. Thank you, once again, for your valuable lessons, Mary!

  9. Deidra Floyd says:

    I just loved reading about your adventures with your grandsons. What a blessing they are to you and that you are to them. You have made memories that will last a lifetime.

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