My family and I went exploring during spring break last week and ended up at an ethereal place on Vancouver Island called Fairy Lake. These three trees captured me; I couldn’t look away from them. A well-loved painter and poet around here is Emily Carr. These trees made me think of her.
Look at the earth crowded with growth, new and old bursting from their strong roots hidden in the silent, live ground, each seed according to its own kind…each one knowing what to do, each one demanding its own rights on the earth. So artist, you too from the depths of your soul…let your roots creep forth, gaining strength. (Emily Carr)
In Developmental psychology, the age of reason is the age when a child is capable of carrying on complex conversation with an adult, usually around seven or eight years old. My BA was full of psychology courses but all the textbook reading and expert opinion comes alive as I actually watch my own children go through the different stages.
My son is turning six this week and I can see glimpses of the age of reason popping up all over the place. Suddenly we are having conversations about death, about right and wrong, about why some daddies don’t live in the same house as the mommies and kids. I watch my son thinking about the things he overhears me saying to my husband and I’m more careful when I talk, knowing that he misses nothing.
The sweet filter of innocence is starting to fray around the edges as my son realizes that not everyone is kind and good and not every story ends the way he thinks it should. I’m torn as to how I feel about his approach to this new age and stage.
On one hand, I adore finally having more in-depth conversations with him; conversations that go beyond, “Can I have some juice?” and “Mom! My sister broke my Lego!” It’s been almost six years of baby and little-kid conversations and it’s nice to change things up. It’s exciting to see my son maturing and taking on little bits of responsibility all by himself. “It’s okay, little sis, I’ll get your dolly for you.” and “Mom, today I took my friend to the office because someone hit him in the face.” I wonder, is this stage a reward for a mom who’s talked about only snacks, toys, sleep and bodily functions for six years?
On the other hand, it breaks my heart. Walking up the hill from kindergarten the other day we had our first conversation about death. “You mean everybody dies, Momma? But I don’t want to die!” The look on his face almost finished me off then and there and I realized that this was just the beginning of the tough discussions. Ready or not, they are here. I hope that the listening and responding I do now will be good practice for when he is a teenager and the questions get even harder.
I saw the best quote on Facebook last year that has stuck with me:
I love the way the huge evergreens in our new neighbourhood march down the street, strong, tall and steady as they’ve been for decades. Since my son is in kindergarten now, the pattern of our days has changed. I take advantage of the hilly streets and most days go for a big walk with my daughter on the way home from school drop-off.
It is a luxury to spend this precious one-on-one time with such a darling companion. There’s usually nowhere to rush off to, no need to continually divide my attention among two children. I’m free to release my daughter from her stroller whenever she feels like it, to run and splash and laugh crazily in the perfect puddles left after last evening’s downpour.
There is no quicker cure for crabby children on a rainy day than a blanket fort. If I really want to have happy kids all I need to do is start tossing the couch cushions onto the floor. My son starts dragging stuffed animals, blankets & pillows to the living room from all over the house. My daughter bounces around with glee knowing that it’s time to play. So many times when the kids ask to build a fort I say no; it makes such a disaster out of the house, is a pain to clean up, etc. But once in a while I like to say yes. This kind of smile is what it happens:
My blog has been quiet. My son finished preschool last week so I have two very constant, very busy companions with me all the time. Funny how just nine hours a week of preschool gave me a slight amount of sanity. 😉
The good news is that my kiddies are suddenly realizing that they have a constant companion and a built-in buddy who is always ready to play. I’ve found myself actually watching from the sidelines a few times, enjoying being the observer instead of the referee (for a few minutes, anyway).
I didn’t really get what a sibling would do for my son. It’s only now, that my daughter is two, that I am seeing the life-altering impact of siblings, the way they carve and shape each other’s personalities. Another post for another day.
My children’s favourite playgrounds aren’t made of metal and hard plastic. They aren’t painted with garish primary colours. They don’t conform to the latest safety regulations. They aren’t surrounded by rings of houses, fences or busy city streets. They don’t have swings or slides or monkey bars. There are no crowds.
My children’s favourite playgrounds have hundred-year-old trees to climb and crawl inside. They are painted with the colours of nature: green and brown, gray and blue, a million different colours. Thousands and thousands of rocks are waiting to be picked up and flung into rivers, lakes and the ocean. Herons, woodpeckers, sea lions, sea otters, crabs, raccoons, squirrels, woodpeckers, ducks and fish pop up at the most surprising moments in the strangest of places.
There are places to hide, places to run free and places to curl up and rest.
The trees stand guard, in the background. Always there and always green, their shadows unmoving as the children dance among them.
It was a warm, rainy day. The children were restless in the house. They’d played with toys, watched a show on TV, played with Playdoh and eaten countless snacks. They started chasing each other around and around the circle on our main floor and I knew it was time to get outside. After little A’s nap we bundled up in heavy-duty rain coats and headed out.
My daughter loves worms, and calls them “nerms,” which is adorable. When she finds one, she picks it up in her bare hands, runs to me, holds it up and proudly announces “Nerm! Mommy! Nerm!”
Her big brother had the idea to put them in the back of a plastic truck, and a new game was born. Soon, they each had a truck and were racing around our cul-de-sac seeing who could find the biggest worm, the smallest worm, the wiggliest worm, and on and on.
I love giving children the space and time to come up with their own games. It’s tempting to sign them up for more classes to fill our (sometimes long and arduous) days but moments like this make me grateful that I am at home with them for these very short years.
I’m not giving anything up by staying home. I’m gaining so, so much.