I remember a warm spring afternoon when Zip was two or so, and returning home from a walk with my little guy by my side and worms wriggling in my hand. “You carry them, Momma.” They moved slowly in my palm, glazing it with their sticky residue. As we walked, I thought about how I hadn’t handled a worm in years, since I was a child, and in my adult life, until that very moment, I would have avoided picking one up. But there I was, worm in hand, acutely aware that I didn’t want my son to see my discomfort. I wanted to nurture his curiosity, that innocent wonder at slimy eyeless things that wriggle up from the ground, and if that meant carrying a few home, so be it.
There have been other moments like that one. Like when Zip was four and decided to ride Tidal Force at Hershey Park. “I’ll take him,” I offered my husband, proud and excited by my preschooler’s fearlessness. As we inched closer to the front of the very long line, my heart started creeping into my throat. What am I doing? I hate huge drops! I don’t want to ride this thing! I contemplated grabbing Zippy’s hand and telling him this wasn’t such a good idea, but instead I climbed into
the ride next to him and screamed my lungs out as we shot down the hill and an enormous wave crashed over us.
Part of parenthood is setting our own discomfort aside to nurture our children’s courage and curiosity and passion. Part of parenthood is pushing our limits, so that we don’t limit our children.
As a momma, I’ve found myself doing things I never expected. I want a world that holds no bounds for my boys. I want them to see the world as the amazing place it is – a place to experience and explore. At times, that has meant pushing myself to do things I have never done and things I’m not sure I want to do.Last week we traipsed across the field next to our house, chasing our runaway dog. As we turned to head back home, I heard Zip shout excitedly, “A deer skull! I found a deer skull! It’s a real deer skull!” And sure enough, it was “a real deer skull.” I’ll spare you the photo, in case you are reading this over breakfast, but for the record there was still a swath of fur running along the skull’s snout and down one side. “I need it for my collection!” Zip announced. And so I armed him with plastic gloves and a pail and sent him back out to the field to collect the skull, which he then placed in a plastic bag on our back deck, awaiting next steps.
If you asked me a few years ago if I would ever shop for wire mesh at the hardware store so my 7-year-old could use it to wrap a deer skull (and a dead rabbit, but that’s another story) that he hopes will finish decomposing in our back yard, I would have said Heck no and Gross. But these days Zip is really into bones. Bones are his thing, thanks to a 12-year-old blogger named Jake (of Jake’s Bones) who makes finding dead animals and cleaning them down to the bones and then putting their skeletons back together seem perfectly easy and normal and totally fascinating. And so there I stood in the store, trying to determine which wire fabric would let the bugs in while keeping predators our, and later I sat beside Zip on the back deck as we held our breath and worked together to wrap the deer skull.
I’m proud of myself for pushing my own limits and letting my children follow their interests, even if their passions sometimes gross me out.
|A glimpse of Zip’s bedroom dresser. The raccoon skull was a gift from the sweet older gentleman who lived next to us when we were renting.|
As parents, we are pushed beyond our fears. We learn new things about the world through our children’s curiosity and passion – things we didn’t know we wanted to know, but are fascinated by all the same, if only because it offers a glimpse into their minds and souls or because it helps us see that the world is bigger than we’ve let it be.
Part of parenthood is finding that in our efforts not to limit our
children’s world, they are expanding ours.