Little Things

We have a ritual of going together to feed the chickens and check for eggs when she is being babysat here. There’s a tiny basket for her to carry the eggs back to the house after we have petted the tame hens and fed them dry bread crusts.

The mud was so spectacular that it splashed when we crossed the lane, but there was warmth in the air and she wanted to stay out for a long time. Since her sparkly pink boots had layers of mud and chicken poo on them, I figured it couldn’t get worse. She joined me for a meander down the trails and we took time to look at little things. Minnows in shallow water, shiny pebbles that got stashed in coat pockets, holes in the ground where creatures dig and live. We stopped for a while and listened to a bird singing, and decided that it was probably so happy because it found a worm in the mud.

When it was time to go inside, we tracked back and forth in a melting snowbank to try to clean our boots. We scrambled some eggs for our lunch, and she wanted to run the spatula and the salt shaker both. She’s not quite three, and I am reminded how much I have always loved this stage. Loved it for the simplicity and the bright ideas and the budding personality.

Yesterday she had a total meltdown, the mother of meltdowns, and I thought about how I would have handled this in my own babies, but it’s different when it’s someone else’s child. I held her until it subsided, then we read a story while the hiccups turned to sniffles. When all was calm I looked into that dear little face and told her firmly that she will not get what she wants when she pitches a fit at my house. She nodded solemnly.

Today we had a few differences of opinion, especially when I was not inclined to go back outside or to play hide and seek at nap time. The foot lifted to start stomping, but I was the authority in this situation and I reminded her that we do not kick and scream at our house. She remembered. She is very smart.

I had flashbacks to taking walks with all five of my children, toiling up the steep ridge on our switchback trails, hauling the littlest one on my back and letting the others grab onto my skirt. I did it for refreshment back then, to get out into the air, to look at another world outside our walls. Sometimes we even found mushrooms we could eat as a bonus.

I think I had a vague hope that my children would learn to go to the outdoors for recreation, and I feel so gratified that they often do that without prompting. (Not everything I strive to teach has taken hold, I must say.) They observe the sky and tell me about the hawk they saw catching a starling. They go fishing, and build ever more sophisticated shelters out of sticks and tarps. They climb cliffs and hike with their friends, and ski when we have snow (which isn’t so much this winter).

I do not regret one minute of that time, not the cockle burrs stuck in the sweaters, or the nuts stashed in my pockets, or the water bottles that were always empty when the thirst was the most desperate. The muddy boot smears on my jacket from carrying a tired tot don’t matter. The rock collections that I thought might sink me did not in fact sink me, nor did the pet snakes. That was a close one, though. And of all things, the four walls stayed put, as did any chores we left undone while we were outside.

Today I was really tired when the little girl went home. I thought about what has changed in my life, and what hasn’t changed. I still need recreation outdoors. So today I hung a hammock and lay in the sun with a quilt to keep me warm, and I was as happy as the bird that maybe found a worm.

2 thoughts on “Little Things

  1. I’m so glad you got to lie in that hammock! If I were two years old going on three, I would want you to babysit me!

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