Recently Lavin and I went on a short trip to North Carolina. While there we settled in for an impromptu picnic at a brewery. As we sat down I laid out a blanket so Lavin didn’t get dirty, then carefully set him in the middle of the blanket. I placed a teether toy in front of him, kicked off my shoes and sipped a cider. Lavin started pulling at the blanket under him so I carefully placed it back, a perfect rectangle patch on a fresh spring green.
When I looked back he was smiling with delight, blanket scrunched up as his tiny little hands ruffled the blades of grass in front of him. I reached out to pull the blanket out in front of him. In that moment I realized I was trying to create a buffer between him and the world. I was trying to get him to play with the things I brought for him… Toys I knew were clean, developmentally appropriate and entertaining. All Lavin wanted to do was feel fresh grass on the tips of his fingers and delight in a texture he hadn’t felt yet.
I thought about the conversations I have with students. I often ask what they did over the weekend. Most children tell me about shows they watched and video games they played. When I ask if they went outside they typically say no. I always feel sad for them. The days I remember from childhood involved being outside running around then coming home dirty, hungry, and tired. Being outside was everything when I was a kid. I always encourage my students to enjoy nature and get outside. Yet, here I was plopping plastic junk in front of Lavin when all he wanted was to experience nature.
After our trip it began warming up in Minnesota. The weekend immediately after was gorgeous. Our home was deep in renovations. We decided to get out a blanket and have a picnic. This time I put Lavin on the edge of the blanket, barefoot and ready to feel the brown blades of grass just starting to push up a hint of green.
As parents let’s think about the buffers we are creating for our children. As yourself if they necessary. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you didn’t keep that buffer? When I ask these questions I find the worst thing that could happen is not bad, but actually preferable.