Like many children, my son is drawn to the water. He runs in for a cannonball, using all the breath within him to squeal as he leaps off the edge of the pool with delight. There is no other care in his world in that moment, other than to feel the water, again and again. Like all children, he feels everything.
This dissipates with age. Why do I not jump in for a cannonball just the same? Even if I jump in alongside him, I’m taking many thoughts and doubts and prejudices along with me — no wonder a child can reach the top of the water with such buoyancy. There is no other weight they carry. Just joy.
We can learn so much from the child, but this isn’t a matter of attempting to lessen our own constitution or to worry less. It’s about helping to elongate the genuine connection a child feels with his own life and the invigorating environment around him.
When we step away from a learning opportunity and allow the child to cut his own bread in two, to tie his own shoe or to make it to the edge of the pool with his own bravery and our smile in sight, the child is awarded an appreciation that we no longer feel. And, that kind of appreciation only extends the enchantment of every encounter life brings — every splash, every shadow, every flower that’s bigger than it was the day before. The child sees things so reverently — including us — why would we ever want to disrupt that view?
The water is such a big learning space. There’s power and a lack of mercy and so much allure at play. Even as an adult, we can be drawn to the water simply for its juxtaposition of tranquility and ferocity. Children feel this, too, but rather than fear the unknown, they crave the sensation of it. When I watch my son spin his little body like a fish or watch an infant splash wildly with gladness, I don’t see any reservation or hesitation, I only see gratitude. They see any body of water as something that is indeed bigger than themselves, but if we allow them the space to do so, they arrive to the edge with a spirit that matches the power of the water, and they deserve to feel and live in that purity for as long as they can. How can we help them in that?
Before we got out of the water, my son swam toward me on his back, his chin meeting the sky with a confidence that would have kept him afloat for hours, and when he got to me, I said to him, “I didn’t know you knew how to backstroke!” He replied with sparkles in his eyes, “I learned! I learned!”
May he greet the day like this for years to come.
About the Author
Angela Tewalt is a writer and mother to two boys. She shares parenting stories and Montessori inspiration at Guidepost Parent.
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