She whose name means “wild, natural and beautiful” in this red poncho picture soaked her clothes with a sneaker wave at Pacific City, and like a true champion, rode home in her underpants without a complaint.
My youngest daughter is 2 and a half. I get several quality hours with just her a couple times a week while her sister is in school. It dawned on me last fall as I looked at her big blue eyes that I needed to not use that time to “get stuff done” because her sister had the privilege of having my often undivided attention as the first and only child for several years, and that time alone with my youngest was a premium thing which did not happen often.
And I also remembered that she did not need me to take her to do grand, amazing things, as she is still young enough to be fascinated by things which are very, very simple. Like red berries on a shrub. Or water on top of a low fence. Or a pole which she could walk around. Or a low wall that she could walk on with my hand.
So we began walking just down the street and back. It is a walk that at a normal adult pace might take 3 to 5 minutes. We spend 20 to 35 minutes. Because everything is so fascinating to her.
Now, a normal thing to do would be to try to scoot the child along. I have resorted to carrying her. But this sort of counteracts the point of the walk, which is to get out, and her mind– see what’s out there. An adult wants to walk. A 2-year old wants to discover. Discovery is totally different from walking.
With a leaf she discovered
And just about every morning, at least 2 to 3 times per week, while her sister is at school, we take our little walk. She has developed a routine. Go walk up the neighbor’s walkway, squish red berries with boot, investigate the cracks in the pavement, touch new flowers, walk on neighbor’s 1/2 wall, look into the drain, go see if the cat is in the window at one house where the cat always is, walk around the pole 3 or more times… you get the point.
Initially this was hard for me, because she just wouldn’t walk. She would look at the moss growing up between the cracks in the sidewalk and ask “What’s that?” Or ponder a drain. Or stand under a tree that was just her size, just because she could.
At college campus, walking!
But she enjoyed the walks so immensely, she would ask me for them. And I knew it was good. I just had to learn how to walk with her, and take the time. To sit on the curb. To pick up the things that had fallen from trees. To pick the flowers (usually weeds).
The sidewalk we walk several times a week. Note, really nothing spectacular, to the untrained eye. “C’mon mom!”
I remember Sam, who was 2. I was his nanny. He was very much the same way. The complexities of the science exhibits were lost on him in our trips to OMSI. But he did understand that stairs were fascinating. And so was water. And blocks that fell down. And small balls that you could throw. The delicacy of the roses at the Rose Garden wasn’t so much his thing. But the drains that went to places far away. Water! Down there! Where is it going to? Where did it come from? His curiosity of these things was lost on me entirely, as I had no children of my own. I just was patient.
So over the past several months I have cultivated the ability to just watch my girl as she takes wonder in the smallest things. Sometimes it is still not that interesting to my overpopulated brain. The lid to some utility thing isn’t really where its at for me. I am thinking on responsibilities I have. Things in my day, things happening to others. Much of which is far less spectacular than some of the things we find. Like watching the daffodils bloom day by day.
Sometimes I manage to slow down just enough to show her the dew-covered spider web. Or the ladybugs huddled in a small plant, waiting for the fat juicy aphids and sunshine. And on those days walking with her is probably one of the best parts of my day. Because it is just the right now moment when she is so little and so absorbed by these little things that I don’t want to forget. The joy she gets brings immense joy, and the gift that she is to point out these small beautiful or fascinating things. I don’t have to be concerned with anything, just ambling down the street with her.
I recommend it actually. Now is a time when I long for the summer sun and break. I want out of my routine, because it is easy to forget how to just live and enjoy life, and quietness and slowness and doing things because they are fun, not because they are productive, or wise planning or whatever. Just because it is nice to walk with a little one who sees things with such different eyes than we do.
The perspective of a 2-year old can be a real gift, if one can get over their own plans, priorities and list of things to do. It is pretty much the pinnacle of giving without the expectation to receive anything back, except something small, pure and very, very simple.
“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” -Mother Teresa