If you've taken a peak at the look book for our thermal long johns, you might have spotted a few tree stumps adorned in moss and ferns. Well, those tree stumps now reside in our backyard. Our kids love to jump from stump to stump, precariously teetering upon each before they catch their balance.
When we picked up the stumps awhile back, the woodsmith included a few thinly sliced large wooden rings for our kids to play with. He told us that, in a few months, the wooden rings would dry up, crack, and fall apart.
And so, this past weekend, our little boy accidentally dropped one of his wooden rings, and it cracked into two. He quickly looked up, his eyes full of tears, when I said, “Oh wow! Look, you made two pieces now!” It somehow worked. Tears dried up quickly and he excitedly told his sister about his good fortune.
So naturally she took her wooden ring and dropped it in the bark. Nothing happened. So she threw it down hard against the bark. Nothing happened.
I was about to tell her to throw it against the concrete, but I stopped myself. Why should I interject? She and her brother were happily playing together, and no one was asking for my help. So I sat back.
And sure enough, she figured out that her wooden ring would break into many pieces when dropped upon the stone steps leading up to our backdoor. For the next thirty minutes, our kids continued to break apart their little wooden rings, counting how many pieces they each had, and just laughing with each other.
For my part, I rested in the shade of our crab apple tree and just watched them. I marveled at their ability to become so singularly focused on one thing, to lose themselves in an activity with each other, to experience the world without distraction.
Childhood is beautiful and spontaneous. As grown-ups, we organize so much of our lives (oftentimes out of necessity to run our households and businesses), but kids live moment to moment. It’s why they are quick to smile and quick to cry. Their senses and emotions are always engaged.
And I wondered what would’ve happened if I had interjected. Would they have happily played together for the next thirty minutes? I don’t think so.
As parents, we want to be involved in our kids’ lives. But sometimes the best thing we can do is to step back and let them figure things out for themselves. Kids are natural scientists, experimenting each and every day, testing out their worlds to better understand their environments and each other.
It’s a small thing — breaking apart dry cracking wooden rings — but it allowed our kids to practice problem-solving skills and engage each other. I need to remind myself to step back more often and just watch childhood’s magic unfold.
Because I tell you what…it’s pretty great to sit in the shade of that crab apple tree.