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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Feeding Curiosity

Sunday was one of those days when it was a little difficult to get things done around the house.  I tried in the morning as best I could, but it just didn't work out.   Turns out I had to feed curiosity instead.  It all started out when I went to try finish digging a pit for my wife's upcoming "pit fire" for ceramics.  It is essentially what it sounds like; a bunch of pottery is placed in a pit, doused in different substances to add color, and loaded with wood and set ablaze.  It is a different method for firing pottery that adds random colors and designs that can't be reproduced.  So while trying to finish digging the pit, our son decided that he needed to help.  Normally I absolutely love his help, except when it could potentially cause injury to myself or himself.  This time it happened to be me.  I was using a pick ax to loosen up rock in the hole.  He had a piece of wood that he was using as a pick ax to do the same thing.  The problem was that when a three and a half year old boy is swinging a piece of wood within close quarters, his aim isn't always the best.  I almost got nailed in head multiple times before I asked him to stop and let me use the pick ax alone for a minute.  Well, he immediately lost interest and tried to get me away from digging the hole.  Well, it worked.  Instead of getting frustrated that I wasn't getting the hole dug, I put the tools down and followed him over to our big pile of sticks (which leads me to another small tangent).

We have this fairly large pile of small trees that I had cut down this past fall to clear an area for our bonfire pit.  Nothing special about this fire pit, I just had to clear a place in the woods to put it and there happened to be dozens of small trees filling the area that I deemed best for the fire pit.  So after cutting all the trees down in the fall, I made a huge pile of them next to our shed.  Most of them I will end up re-using as part of my garden fence (which I will get into another time).  The pile stands about 4 feet tall, and given that I left all the branches on the trees, it bounces when you stand on top.  I found this out in the fall, and over this past weekend as our son was climbing the pile, I showed him how we can bounce on top, almost like a trampoline, just a touch more dangerous.  Our son doesn't have the confidence to bounce on it himself, so he attempts to drag me up there periodically to bounce with him.  This is what happened Sunday morning.  After giving up on finishing digging the pit,  I made my over and we bounced on the pile of sticks.  Unlike a trampoline which makes it relatively easy to bounce, sticks and trees don't have quite as much give and it takes a lot more work with my legs to make it bounce.  After about ten minutes, my legs were burning and I had to take a break, much to our sons dismay.  I then proceeded to sit down on top of the pile and he dropped right in my lap and leaned back.  Soon after we both sat down, I tracked a mosquito that was closing in to his landing spot right on my son's forehead.  As soon as he landed, I smacked my son ever son gently in the head and killed the mosquito.  So he didn't think I was just randomly smacking him in the head, I explained what I was doing.  That led to a five minute discussion about mosquito's and other bugs.  Curiosity.  I could have brushed off the questions or given him short answers, but I went into depth and explained everything about mosquito's.  That discussion veered off to a hawk that was circling way up above our heads.  So we talked and we talked and then we sat in silence for a bit before we were up and running off to some other activity.  

The reason I don't get much done during the day with our children up and about is that they like to be involved, ask questions, and figure out the world around them.  I could easily brush them off, but that would do them a disservice.  It is more our son at this point than our daughter, but the time will come where she is just as vocal as he is and will want either my wife or I to explain things to her as well.  I can see where there would be a temptation to stifle that curiosity, not intentionally, but out of a desire for a little peace and quiet.  In our house, there is almost never any peace and quiet, but that is the way it is supposed to be with two little children running around.  A house with children should not be quiet unless they are involved in an activity that is devouring all of their attention.  Our children do not have the crutch of iPhones or TVs to rely on should they get bored.  They simply do not play with them and will not until they are much older.  They play with blocks, crayons and markers, sticks and mud, train tracks, and because of all that, their imaginations are blossoming.  Their curiosity is insatiable, as long as we feed it, and I strive every day to do that.  It is easy to stifle that curiosity, with just a simple shun or dismissal, but all they want to do is learn.  There is no stupid question, even if it may seem stupid to an adult, and there is where the magic lies.  Those simple questions which can sometimes require a lengthy explanation, are necessary if a child is to remain curious about the world around them.  I try and answer every question our son asks.  It may not happen immediately if I am involved in something else, but I do my best to answer every one.  It could take me 5-10 minutes to explain mosquitoes or why we are digging a pit for mommy's pottery, but those questions lead to more questions and so on and so forth.  If I don't know the answer, I tell him, and then we figure it out.  There in lies the magic, living in the moment and not thinking about everything else that I need to do that he doesn't care about.  Nothing that is pressing in my life is pressing in his and the more I can remember that, the more I can be attune to what he needs and to what my daughter needs.  Our daughter will get to the stage our son is at in a few years and the magic will begin again.  Even now, I am reliving the days when my son first became curious about the world around him with our daughter.  She is now clamoring to be where her brother is and get involved in everything, even if she isn't fully capable yet.  The time will come though.  All I know is that I will continue to feed their curiosity as best I can, without the use of technology as a crutch to entertain them.  

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