The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
― Eleanor Roosevelt
Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced. – John Keats
While I find my energy and patience, which sadly depend upon each other, growing thin these days I try to remember the important things in life. Namely, my daughter. Afterall, it’s not her fault that my energy is low and my patience nearly non existent. Even though it takes a great effort to do things with my sweet little girl, usually when I do them I gain a bit of energy; the enjoyment gained through these activities is worth my last ounces of energy and my time. While I often am tempted to say that not only am I tired, but I have far more important things that I should be spending my time on. But do I really? Is there anything more important than spending quality time with and providing enriching experience for your child. Nope. The laundry can wait. And so, I try to embark upon little adventures with my Ellie girl at least a few times a week.
One of the adventures we have journeyed through together was baking cookies. Ellie is to the age now that she can ask for things she wants to eat, hence the chocolate chip and M&M cookies. I know that the thought of baking with a not-quite-two-year-old might be, well, frightening. It can also be a time for learning and experience. I explained to Ellie the process of reading the recipe and measuring. She carefully emptied cups of flower into the mixing bowl. Then she used the wooden spoon to stir the dry ingredients together. She was fascinated as she watched me place the cookies on the cookie sheet and nicely reminded me that the oven is “hot” wheni put the sheets in to bake. What better way to learn about where things to eat come from than to experience the process yourself?
Daddy helped us out with our next mini adventure. We gave in and finally bought mums and pumpkins for our porch. We always transfer them into our own decorative pots, this time our walking, talking Ellie was right there to help. She was absolutely fascinated with the whole process. She got her garden tools from the garage and plopped right down to help Daddy. She helped fill the pot with dirt, and then filled another happily exclaiming “dirt daddy! Look!” Is there anything more “fall” than planting mums?! Being invloved in the things that your parents do not only helps you feel important, but your parents realize that you have something to offer: even if it is something as small as placing tiny handfuls of dirt in a flower pot. If you teach your child the process there is likely something that they can contribute, no matter how small. What a confidence builder!
Paint. This may be the most feared substance among parents. I just so happen to love it. Stick them in some play clothes, put an art smock over them, and tell them not to eat it. Easy. Ellie loved painting. So much so that we tried two new types of paint: watercolors and tempera. Of course I went over the “rules” about twenty times while she painted: we don’t paint our bodies, we don’t paint the counter, it’s not for eating, turn the brush around, not in your hair… The process of watercolors was even more complicated. Water, then paint, then paper… And while it may seem unlikely that a toddler could “get” the process of watercolor painting, it is possible. What a fun experience this was. And so many things were gained through it: the experience of processes (the watercolor won’t work if you don’t use water first), learning persistence and not giving up, following rules and boundaries, experimenting with mixing color, cause and effect…the list goes on.
It isn’t fall in New England if you don’t take a trip to the apple orchard. Besides, all the applesauce and apple pie that you get from those apples makes the whole experience better. Ellie already went apple picking this fall with her Mam (grandma) and aunties. When we told her we were going apple picking again she was so excited. We got to ride the tractor hay ride to the orchard, which Ellie thought was a train. She experienced one of those earlier this summer. Outin the orchard Ellie tried the process of twisting and pulling the apples. She tried so hard! After filling our bag we rode the hay ride back and made our way to say “hi” to the goats and pigs. Ellie loves animals. She loved them even more up close and studiously observed what the pigs were eating: “dirt?” Even this traditional fall experience held room not only for quality family time, but for learning as well. There was the whole process of twisting and pulling, the lesson of keep trying, the observation of animals and how they live. She even learned that pumpkins were too heavy for her to pick up!
Experience. Life is for living, for experiencing. Being able to see a child take part in happy adventures is a beautiful thing. I hope that these early experiences set the foundation for Ellie’s future response and approach to experience. Martha Washington once said “I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our disposition and not on our circumstance”. Even as a small child Ellie is learning from her experiences. I hope that she learns early that her approach to the variety of experiences that life brings her way makes all the difference. I hope and pray tha she never loses that happy eagerness to try new things, to help other people, to learn new processes; for eagerness and joy through all experiences make all the difference.