Editor's Note (April 2011)

The Sky’s the Limit

There is nothing more magical than the open sky. And it’s hardly a surprise that children are especially amazed by the wonders up above us. When my daughter was younger we would lie on our backs on a picnic blanket and try to find funny shapes in the clouds. On windy days we’d marvel at how fast the clouds would move, and on still summer afternoons we’d be just as surprised that they hardly moved at all. As she got older I made a little book of the different types of clouds; cirrus (wispy), cumulus (chunky) and stratus (layers). We would take it with us on long car trips and she’d play official cloud identifier. Over the years the daytime sky provided us with lots of good, old old-fashioned – and free – fun.

And that was probably nothing compared to the delight we’ve taken in the night sky. I can still remember exactly where we were when we saw our first shooting star together. We were standing in our driveway saying good night to the fireflies and a streak caught our eye. When she learned about constellations in school we’d amble out to our deck so she could point her finger up to the sky connecting stars like dots to show me how each constellation was made. We were so enthralled we made visits to all the local planetariums and held each other’s hand in the big dark rooms as we listened to the narrator take us miles away into space.

The sky’s magnitude so caught our imagination we came up with a little saying that we still use today. One day, and I don’t remember how it started, we were playing a game of trying to top each other with indications of how much we loved each other. “I love you more than all the leaves on the trees, beat that,” I’d say. “I love you more than all the water in the oceans, beat that,” she’d say. We agreed on the ultimate – “I love you more than all the stars in the sky” and to this day we sign our cards to each other with this salutation.

As a parent you don’t have to be a science expert to share the magic of the universe with your youngsters. To get you started we have a family-friendly article this month: “Starry, Starry Night: Astronomy Adventures for Families,” by Justine Ickes. Read this piece and find out how you can introduce the wonders of the universe to your youngsters. Perhaps you’ll find, as I did, that you can learn just as much as your children. Parenting is a wonder. The sky’s the limit to how much you can make of the magical days you have with your children. Enjoy every one of them.

Have fun,

Jean Sheff