Parenting is a collaboration with children, the adventure of a lifetime for all parties. Children develop their perceptions of the world through their senses, through observations and questioning. I’m often reminded that my children are still forming their worldview by the amazing things they say, often unexpectedly, in casual conversation.
Recently, 7-year old Sunboy described his perceptions of what it’s like to be an adult…
Sunboy: When you go to work, it’s your schedule, your choice. Adults get to work. Adults are free to do what they want. Adults create the world.
Me (in my head): Sometimes I feel so frugal that I cannot bring myself to buy myself a new item of clothing. Does that make me free or not free?
At bedtime, we snuggle and talk. I tell Sunboy he’s such a squirmy-worm that it’s amazing he falls asleep at all. He tells me that if I leave his room before he’s asleep, he’ll keep wiggling and never sleep. So I stay. He asks questions. As we talk, I use the word “optimistic” and he asks what the word means. I say it means you’re hopeful that things will go in a favourable way.
Sunboy: What went the way you wanted it to, Mommy?
Me: I didn’t mean anything in particular. Optimism doesn’t mean things worked out, just that you’re hopeful that they might.
Sunboy: Yeah, well, when you’re optimistic you can be really wild.
I don’t know what Sunboy’s comment meant either, but it shows the gap in his understanding. Or mine. It’s possible that Sunboy just taught me that optimism can be freeing. You see, we are still learning our world together.
Three-year old Flowergirl is full of questions too. Her younger age prompts her to ask basic questions about our world that, in turn, cause me to re-evaluate the fundamental nature of our existence. Also, she is learning to use the potty.
Flowergirl: Will the potty get smaller and come into my room?
Me: The potty in the bathroom? It’s attached to the house.
Children are also a good reminder that our expressions can have a literal, unintended meaning. When telling a story, I used the expression “I jumped out of my skin” to indicate my fear.
Sunboy: Where are your two skins, Mommy?
We are the ultimate blank slate when we are born. Many data points are needed throughout years of investigation to write culture, relationships, knowledge, society and language onto our understanding. Slowly, children arrive at an analysis of the way the world works. The process of editing our slate never ends as we edit and re-write our lives as they unfold. Through their questioning, children challenge the paradigms that parents take for granted. Together, we become life-long learners, investigating our world.
Kat Lehmann believes we are all in the process of becoming and have a choice in what we become. She is a scientist who writes prose poetry about parenting and nature, and can be found sneaking outside to look at the moon when not keeping up with her children Sunboy and Flowergirl. You can connect with her at http://www.nurturingandnature.