Love, Grow, & Overflow

My cup overflows. My laundry does too.

Tag: learning

Cicadas

 

We’ve got a great playground in our backyard, a hand-me-down from friends who outgrew it.  It’s far nicer than anything we could afford, and we love the chance for kids to work out their energy in a way that involves neither our couch nor the cats.  Late in the day, the sun peeks through the trees and dances on my kids’ faces as they slide and swing and climb to their hearts’ content.

Last week, in the midst of play time, my daughter let out a shriek and exclaimed, “Eww! A bug!”  My husband, who is our one-man bug patrol, was mowing the lawn with earphones in, so even when he was in view I couldn’t get his attention.  (Well played, husband.)  So I sauntered over, expecting an ant or spider.  Two insanely ugly bugs were latched on to the underside of the platform.  They were giant and gray with huge eyes and long, bent soul-crushing front legs.  (They looked straight out of Starship Troopers, or what I think Starship Troopers bugs would look like.  I didn’t see the movie because bugs are gross enough without Hollywood’s touch.)  Inside I was saying “EWW! A bug!” but someone needed to be the grown-up, so I put on my best parent face. I said,  “Wow!  I wonder what kind of bugs they are?  Now we have a science mystery to solve!”  My daughter looked at me skeptically and said, “I think I’m just going to swing instead.”

I took photos (carefully, trying not to get too close) and shared them with a few friends online.  One friend identified them as cicada exoskeletons.  She told me the cicadas had already molted, and that the creepy things that looked so much like live bugs ready to devour us were actually empty shells.  I was doubtful, but after doing some internet searches I realized she was probably correct.  I found some cool molting videos and a coloring page of the life cycle of cicadas, and I showed my daughter.  “Like a butterfly!” I cooed, which is true in the sense that I am like an Olympic athlete.  But my kids were comforted by the fact that they weren’t alive, and my son was especially comforted by the fact that he could, with parental permission, whack something with a stick.

As soon as we got into the backyard, my kids dashed valiantly to the playground to knock down the cicada shells (which was a little scary, honestly, because I was only mostly sure they were just shells.)  Sure enough, one gentle poke with a stick sent them falling down, empty and crumbling like paper.  My daughter said, “I wasn’t afraid once I learned about ‘em.”  And it felt like one of those “The More You Know” videos from the my youth, like maybe Tutti from Facts of Life would step out with the collar popped on her bedazzled jean jacket and say, “Cicada shells aren’t scary.  They’re not even alive.” And then a star would shoot across the screen with a rainbow burst and a sprinkle of piano keys.

I think this is true:  knowledge trumps fear.  It was utterly ridiculous to avoid half of the playground because of bugs that were not even there.   And I think of all the friends and opportunities my kids will miss if they grow into adults that let paper-tiger fears keep them from engaging the world.  I hope I can teach them now that when they feel uncomfortable or afraid of something they don’t understand, they can ask and educate themselves and poke those fears with sticks until they crumble.  And while some fears are valid, my kids don’t need to be shackled by those fears.  They can rise, like stars.  Like butterflies.

But not cicadas, because, ew.

Learning to Swim

float

Photo Credit: Geoff LMV via Compfight cc

Swimming lessons did not go well last week.

My daughter loved every moment of them until last week.   She would skip around the locker room with freshly-toweled hair, pausing to say that she couldn’t wait till swimming again.  But after weeks of kicking and paddling, the teacher decided they were ready to paddle by themselves.  Although my daughter’s floatie was cinched around her waist and a pool noodle was looped under her arms, she was terrified.  When the teacher let go, she froze in the water, legs stick-straight, arms wide, fingers splayed.  She cried a guttural cry and then frantically grabbed for her teacher.  When her teacher backed out of her grasp, she got angry and began screaming “STOP! Stop it! Stop!”  until the teacher finally grabbed her pool noodle again.  She spent the rest of the time whimpering at the side of the pool, trying to convince me to take her home.

As a parent, it was excruciating. As she flailed outwardly, my stomach twisted and turned inside.  I’m wired to protect her and to keep her safe.  For one crazy momma-bear second, I considered hopping in and grabbing her, rescuing the little girl who needed no rescue but desperately believed she did.  But I know the way to keep her safe in the pool is to push through the lessons, even when she feels unsafe, so I relegated myself to cheesy thumbs-up signs from the bleachers.

I want her to be safe.

And this isn’t really about swimming.

Up until this point, parenting has been largely about enfolding.  Hold her in my arms.  Wear her in my sling.  Buckle her into carrier, swing, and stroller.  Make sure the gate is latched in the backyard, make sure I’ve got a tight grip on her hand in public places.  Parenting has been safety-by-containing.
And now both she and I are learning new skills.  Kindergarten looms on the horizon, school busses and mean kids and exposure to thousands of things that I’ve intentionally filtered out of her life so far.  It makes me sentimental and nervous and scared all at once to watch her grow. (“Stop it!  Stop!”)  We’re both a little terrified.  So she works on getting her ears wet, on her “scoopers and kickers,” and I try to figure out what she needs for the days when the buckles no longer hold her, when her legs are tall enough to jump the gate.

My husband always says that we can parent by building up walls to keep the world out, or by equipping our kids to thrive in the world.  Safety-by-containing vs. safety-while-engaging.  And although these heartstrings bind tighter than any five point harness on the market, I know this:

When it comes to what we’re building up, I choose her.

The boy across the street is learning to ride his bike.  Just a couple weeks ago his dad was holding on to his seat for balance, and now his son takes off down the street, at once wobbly and fierce.   His dad jogs behind him, close enough to scoop him up if he falls but too far to reach him before the ground scrapes his skin.  Seeing the pride on both their faces, I know it’s not a bad thing, this ever-growing distance, skinned elbows and all.

Outside the pool, there is this gigantic pedestrian bridge that spans the road – a hulking eyesore with peeling sky-blue paint.  My daughter’s fascinated by it.  I’ve promised her that the day she paddles across the pool, we’ll climb it.  I imagine us running up the ramps out to where the cars speed under us, our hair blowing in the wind.  We’ll yell “We did it!” through the fencing and our words will get carried off in the traffic and the breeze, the two of us together, learning to swim.