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chasing answers newsletter #18
The wisdom of a child
“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is about.” - Angela Schwindt
Hello and Happy Sunday!
If anyone wants to catch up on some past issues, check them out here, and if you’re in the mood to share, feel free to smack the share button just below this paragraph.
This week was a big one at our house.
The day I had been dreading for five years finally came. My little girl started kindergarten. As I watched her get on the bus that first morning, I felt like I was saying goodbye to innocence. It also became painfully clear to me that over the past five years, I've become a much more emotional person than I ever expected I would be.
That entire day at work, I thought about her and how her day was going. Was she scared or nervous? Was she making friends? Did she get to her classroom ok? I was infinitely more nervous than she seemed that morning, getting on the bus.
I was also scared.
Scared because I have always heard, from friends who have older children, that once they start school, kids become entirely different people. They become a wild mixture of everything they pick up at school from the other kids. As if each kid is an individual ingredient that gets thrown into this big pot with all these other ingredients, and out comes a finished product that is unrecognizable.
I don't know how true that is, and I'm hoping it's not true at all. But I am concerned. It was probably just in my head, but when I got home from work after that first day, I felt like I could already see a difference (I know, it sounds crazy, but I swear I could.)
I'm so afraid of my daughter morphing into this new person. Not the type of morphing that happens from maturing and growing, but the kind that occurs from outside influences. When it's more of an imitation of what's been seen than a natural progression to a new stage.
Right now, she is so perfect. A lover of nature who is not afraid of anything. A princess who loves to dress up and do her nails. She will perform the entire Frozen soundtrack dressed as Elsa and then go outside and catch every bug she can find and create habitats for them so they can be "safe." She will wade waist-deep into a lake with me to catch a snake but also wants to have her hair done pretty, like Mommy. She points out things I feel most five-year-olds wouldn't even notice, like when there is a beautiful sunset or a full moon.
She belongs in nature, and nature lives in her.
Last week, taking a walk by the lake, we came across some baby snakes that had made their way onto the path and were headed towards the road. She was excited and ran to pick them up so they wouldn't get run over. I instructed her to be careful because the little ones are feisty and will try to bite. It didn't matter. Without hesitation, she reached for one. It bit her. She didn't flinch. "Dad, it doesn't even hurt. It's just a little pinch."
Man, I don't want to lose THAT girl.
I've seen what outside influences can do. A few months ago, at a cookout with my wife's family, one of the adults caught a small five-lined skink by the pond. He brought it over to where my daughter and her cousins were playing. When he opened his hand to display the tiny lizard, my daughter was ecstatic, running toward him to grab it. Before she could get there, her cousins (also all little girls) began to shriek and scream as if they were under attack. My daughter hesitated. She was confused. She had held lizards like this many times and never thought twice about it. Was she supposed to be scared? Was she not supposed to hold it? I stood back, watching to see what she would do. Finally, the allure of the tiny lizard with the bright blue tail was too much. She grabbed it, held it close, and began caressing its head.
Phew! That was close!
Some of the other little girls were intrigued once they saw her holding and talking to the little guy. A couple of them even asked if they could hold it. I was relieved and proud. She didn't follow the group. She did what was instinctive and natural and even persuaded some of the group to follow her.
In an attempt to hang on to as much of that little girl as possible, I offered to take her to school this year. For the past two years, I have taken her to preschool. It was just a few days a week, so I adjusted my work schedule, working from home on those mornings until it was time to get her ready and take her to school. I sat her down and explained that I could do that again this year, or she could ride the bus. But if she wanted to ride the bus, she would have to get up and get ready earlier. After thinking for a minute, she said, "Dad, I'm a little nervous about riding the bus because there's going to be a bunch of kids on there that I don't know (long pause), but I still think that's what I want to do."
I was both heartbroken and incredibly proud. Even though she knew there would be some uncomfortableness in riding the bus, she was willing to take that gamble to see what the experience was like. She already understands that you need to get out of your comfort zone to move forward. At five, she's already light years ahead of her Dad.
I'm incredibly proud of my daughter for an unlimited number of reasons (as most parents are), but that decision to walk away from what is known and comfortable (riding to school with Dad) toward something unknown and uncomfortable (riding the bus) to live a new experience ranks near the top.
It's possible I don't have as much to worry about as I think. She seems to be able to evaluate options, weigh pros and cons, and make the decision that is best for her exceptionally well for someone just beginning their sixth year of life.
Maybe she won't pick up as much as I fear from the other kids but will show many of them, as she did with her cousins, that they shouldn't be afraid of what they don't know.
Maybe others will learn, from her fearlessness and willingness to step outside of her comfort zone, that it's ok to be uncomfortable, nervous, and scared, but you still have to take the chance.
I knew this week would involve lessons about being brave, overcoming fears, and moving forward to the next chapter.
I just envisioned myself as the teacher, not the student.
That’s all for now.
I hope you all have a great week!
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