09/10/2014 10:48 am ET Updated Nov 10, 2014

A Second Take at Parenting After Years on Our Own

LEXINGTON, Mass. -- Mornings have gotten a lot livelier in the Lanson household this fall.

My day starts with exercises and free-dancing with 7-year-old Devon, usually to Steve Songs' "Marvelous Day" CD.

From there it is time for breakfast, with "MISS Devon," the fifth-grade teacher of
my twin sister Kathy and I. Miss Devon bears a striking resemblance to
my exercise partner, Devon, but we keep this under wraps.

Fifth grade, Kathy and I are learning, has pretty strict rules. We must raise our hands to ask questions.

"Teacher, may I scratch my nose?" I asked today.

"That's gross," my teacher's pet twin blurted out. (Miss Devon disciplined her for talking out of turn.)

It all gets pretty goofy.

None of this, of course, would be all that unusual except that Kathy and I are card-carrying members of the Medicare generation. And our younger daughter (no, we're not twins) turns 30 this fall.

Devon is our grand-daughter, and she's living here and attending 2nd grade in the marvelous elementary school about a mile from our house.

I can't say we weren't a little worried about having a kid back in the house. Devon is our oldest grand-child and, as I always tell her, my best friend. But parenting full-time again in our mid-60s? Yikes.

As it turns out, it has been a treat and a gift. Devon brings light and laughter to our house just about daily. Watching her learn, being at the receiving end of her curiosity, makes me wish I'd been around more when my daughters were little and I was working long hours as a newspaper editor.

"What's mezzo-forte?" she asked me as she got ready to head to school.

"Moderately-loud," I said.

"I didn't know that," Kathy said (she's the artistic one; I sing).

"What's piano," asked Devon.


Where do kids get these questions? She has a million and one.

Nor is it only Devon who has delighted us as the school year begins. I've gained a new understanding of Lexington's reputation as a terrific school district. The first week, parents walked kids to school in droves with dogs and pre-school siblings in tow. Though Devon's school is the second biggest in town, with more than 550 students, the assistant principal greeted Devon by name when I dropped her off the third day on the blacktop where the kids line up. She bent low so she was at Devon's eye level.

"I bet that's your favorite color," she said, looking at Devon's bright pink outfit.

"One of them," Devon said.

"Well, I can tell that you like bright colors," she told her.

"I like your outfit, too," Devon replied.

This moment of connection was one of many we saw in Devon's first few days. By Tuesday of her second full week she asked me for the "rolling dropoff," a spot at which kids can hop out of cars and head alone to their class lines. She already felt at home in her new school.

Devon has started to read to us, too. Simple books, mind you. But she's excited; she read five yesterday. And as long as school brings a sense of fun and accomplishment rather than fear, I expect she'll have a great year.

Kathy and I are learning, too, or perhaps re-learning. Here's what we're observing: Give children time and positive attention, and the world that they see and share is pure joy. Make learning a pleasure and not a test, and creativity and knowledge both thrive.

Yeah, Kathy and I are plenty tired come the weekend. Seven-year-olds have a whole lot of energy. But we're also rediscovering how amazing the world, real and imaginary, is through the eyes and experiences of young children.

That, as the Master Card ad says, is priceless.