Children are curious by nature. It’s how they are wired. How else do they explore the world and figure out how it works? So beyond basic safety precautions (don’t explore nitric acid, 100 foot falls or poisonous snakes), we do kids no favours by getting in their way when they are in Curiosity Mode.
But of course, we do it all the time. “Don’t touch that! It’s dirty!” “Come away from there. It’s not yours.” “No, no, beta! It will bite you.” “You’ll get wet! Chee!”
I thought about all this this evening. Moy Moy and I were out for a walk in the hood and we came across a young mother with her two children. The older girl was around seven and she was fascinated and worried by Moy Moy. I could see the wheels spinning in her brain: “Why is she in a buggy? Why isn’t she walking? I can walk. What’s wrong with her?”
The younger child – a toddler – was too interested in everything (a passing dog, a flower, a stick) to even notice us. The Mom was busy on her phone. We sailed by, smiling at the older one reassuringly (“We won’t bite”), enjoying the little one’s investigations and wishing that the Mom could be a bit more present.
We met them a second time only to observe Mom calling the little one away from a plant which had caught her fancy. “NO, Beta! Don’t touch.”
We ran into them for the third time about twenty minutes later (there are only so many roads in our neighbourhood). The Mom was now very present. The little one had toppled face first into a mud puddle and Mom was flummoxed. What to do? She was dressed in white pants and a smart, crisp kurti. Little one was covered – head to toe and both hands – in very dubious looking mud. Older child was standing by, clearly enjoying the whole scene.
Moy Moy to the rescue!
Moy drools, so we never go anywhere without a supply of crisp, white cloth nappies – perfect for mopping up whatever comes our way.
“You look like you could use a clean cloth,” I said to the Mom cheerfully. I handed her one of ours and said to the Little One: “You are a curious girl! That’s a good thing.”
Curiosity should be celebrated. It’s a rare gift in our crazy world which values predictability, conformity and sameness over surprise, whimsy and quirkiness. Treasure the questions, the desire to explore, the endless capacity for wonder and amazement which our children remind us of every day.
If we let them.
(So that means mud, and dead birds and the occasional stinky science experiment . . . don’t worry. It ends much sooner than you realize.)