06 October 2006

Everything But the Bear

We went camping last weekend, an overnight event with families from Curious Girl's new school. It was wonderful to be out in the woods (albeit in musty cabins which aggravated Politica's allergies), to hear coyotes howling at night, to see the moon rising over the trees, to hear the leaves rustling in the wind. We went canoeing twice! Curious Girl loved it: her fear of boats has passed, and she just loved being out on the water. The light reflecting off the lake made the leaves on shore shimmer, and the trees just starting to turn colors were reflected in the lake. Beautiful.

The photo included here is Curious Girl (front left) wading in a creek, looking for crawfish. Some of the bigger kids who'd been to camp before were collecting them in jars, working with nets to scoop them up. CG said, "I want to go with them," and just took off down the creek. (Then she slipped, got all wet, and no matter how blue her lips got, wouldn't admit she was cold.) The big kids didn't seem to mind her trailing after them, and she didn't seem to mind their half-hearted attention. "Look, Mama!" she would call, holding up a piece of slate from the creek. "It's creamy!" (and it was, sort of. Slimy, maybe.) She found some crawfish, she found some leaves, she lost her balance, she recovered it. Politica and I just enjoyed watching kids be kids, mucking about, looking closely at the creek.

I had my sling at camp--a sling that will probably get its own post one of these days--but didn't use it much. Curious Girl didn't much want to be up in it, for all that we were in a new place with a lot of new people (she did know some of the kids, but not all by a long shot--her school runs up to grade 8, so some of the kids are quite a bit older than she is, and this event was also open to alumni). She glommed onto another girl from her class, and seeing a friend from class gave her the courage to go running farther than she usually does. The girls ran back and forth from our cabin to their cabin, or between the donkey barn and the play area. They ran up to the zip-line seat where another mother was helping the kids get on safely. We had several episodes of not knowing exactly where Curious Girl was. We knew who she was with and where they planned to go, but we couldn't see her. And that's good, but also weird.

My Friend In Need of a Pseudonym (who actually doesn't want a pseudonym, so perhaps I shall settle for Pseudonymless Friend) has observed that Politica and I value independence as we parent. From an early age, we've encouraged Curious Girl to try things herself, to see what happens. We've gotten her involved with plenty of household routines (clearing the table, putting away silverware) and at the playground I've spotted her while she tried to climb jungle gyms or ladders or whatnot. We've also carried her lots of places, held her hands while she's tried new things, and generally tried to be with her as much as she's wanted. We value independence and connection, and those are, probably, two of our core values as parents. But still, it's odd watching another level of independence kick in.

Last night we went to a Sukkot dinner where The Marvelous Toy was the dinner entertainment. Hurray! Oh frabjous joy! Curious Girl and one of her school friends are perhaps Marc Rossio's biggest fans, and for the first time at any kind of event we've been to, they went and sat in front of the performing area all by themselves, and sang along, and danced together. CG was literally vibrating with happiness that he was back In Our State! It was nice having the two girls sitting with the other kids, since we could chat with other adults. It wasn't so long ago that CG wouldn't go near a performer even with me holding her in the sling. Time flies.

At camp last weekend, CG and I walked around the lake, and found a cable bridge across the shallow end of the lake. There was one cable for walking across, and two higher cables that a taller kid or adult could use for their hands. We watched a girl come across, followed by her father. CG cheered, and then said, "I want to try it." So she got on over the grass, where she could walk along, holding onto the lower of the hand cables. She scooted sideways, came to the start of the water, and said, "Now I can walk across the water by myself." "I don't know about that, sweetie. I don't think you can reach." "But I can try, myself!" "But I'm not sure it's a good idea." "But look, I can try." This is what we always say: you can try. See what happens. I'll help. Try. So I said, "OK, but only out to the first marker." The lake wasn't deep here--mostly boggy, maybe 5 inches deep it looked, and if she fell I figured I could just leap out to her, and she could sit up to avoid drowning. She got to the first marker, and kept going. I tried getting on the bridge to help her, but it pushed the cables too far away for her to reach. And she didn't want to stop at the first marker. "I can try, Mama! I can go all the way across." So she kept going. Every now and then she'd swing a bit too far and say, "Mama, I almost fell but I didn't." Mostly, she sang to herself. "I'm going on a bear hunt, I'm going on a bear hunt...I'm not scared." She reached a point, finally, where she could no longer reach the hand cable, which angled up to a point on the other shore. So she inched her way back.

My heart was beating faster as I watched her over the water. I didn't think she'd fall, but I knew it might happen. I didn't think she'd drown if she fell, but I worried that my risk analysis was off. I didn't think she'd freak out in the middle, but I wondered if that wasn't a possibility. I was a little nervous, I'll admit, but I was also proud. And wondering whether pride was the right feeling. I don't know whether she was being brave: she wasn't scared of the bridge. She just likes to climb, and she's good at it. And I love that she tries, and I love that she's a great climber, and I love that she rarely thinks there's something she can't do.

I also love that she still, sometimes, wants to snuggle in the sling.


Phantom Scribbler said...

What a great post. Somehow you always tell me what I need to hear. (I have a post in the pipeline about freaking out over Baby Blue's small size and how hard it is for her to keep up with the bigger kids.)

I think as a family we need to work on valuing independence a little bit more, and forseeing all possible risk a little bit less. How frequently we say "You could get hurt!" instead of "You can try."

liz said...

Wow. Such a brave and resourceful girl she is. Which I already knew, but this is a whole new level.

art-sweet said...

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. As a cautious person, how will I find the courage to let Guatebaby take risks? AT HH services, I watched a friend's two year old climbing over the back of the pews and how my friend moved - just a little to make sure her girl didn't hit her head but not enough to make her feel like she wasn't doing it on her own.

And I thought, how the hell am I going to do this? Thanks for the insight into how you do it.

chichimama said...

What a great post! It really sounds like your family has struck a good balance in many things, including this.

We also need to work on fostering independence more. Or, rather, I need to work on it....

turtlebella said...

Sigh. You are such a great mom. And Curious Girl clearly a great kid.

Scrivener said...

This is a fantastic post! I've also been working on celebrating independence, but it's sometimes difficult to gauge, as you indicate here, where pride shades over into foolhardiness.

Arwen said...

I agree this is a fabulous post.
I'm big on fostering independence, too. Ripley's really laid back, physically - he's not a big risk taker, and pretty much only attempts things I'm comfortable with. Tate, on the other hand, is just one: but I can already see that I'll be struggling more with the let-go/be-safe dilemma with him. He's an adventurer, that one!