Why Losing Words is Significant

…as I sat with this knowledge I ached for the collective child who will never know the beauty of the earth for themselves, but more for the child who will never even have words for what she sees…

They are removing words like “wren”, “acorn”, “bramble” in favor of more modern words. I question you now; does my child need to know “encryption”, “keystroke”, “megapixel”? Does yours? At what age should the viewing of Windows (or Mac) be considered as above what is outside of actual windows? The loss of this natural knowledge will hurt our children, will damage our own fragile connection to our place in the world, will continue to disconnect us all from the soul of the earth, from a higher power, from our very selves. By taking these words from children, and more so by taking away the moments and places these words depict, we are robbing them of deeply expressive experiences. We are taking the voice from a piece of ourselves.

“Once upon a time, words began to vanish from the language of children. They disappeared so quietly that at first almost no one noticed – fading away like water on stone. …”
-Robert Macfarlane in The Lost Words

If anyone is interested in words, nature, the connection that comes from the soles of your feet in the muddy earth in late spring…there is a book for you. I will get no kickback for posting this, there is no affiliate link notice needed here. If we are friends in real life you know that beauty sets my soul afire. Beauty, as in; the barest reality of nature. Not only that. Also the clear descriptiveness of the written word. I’m a little jumbled here…let’s see if I can find my way.

I heard recently, that a prominent publisher was, and has been for some time, softly swapping words out of their children’s dictionaries. Taking words from the natural world and replacing them with words from the world of technology. I could feel the weight of this in my soul and as I sat with this knowledge I ached for the collective child who will never know the beauty of the earth for themselves, but more for the child who will never even have words for what she sees in dusty books, on travel blogs, in the paintings of the someday long forgotten artists. Taking these words from the children is doing them a disservice.

Is it so terrible that our young children can distinguish between grackle and raven and crow? Does this somehow stall their knowledge of technology? Does first leading children into meadows and marshes ruin them from one day becoming scientists or sociologists? Can we, for a few short years, a decade perhaps, keep our children primitive? Could we let them outdoors, lost in mucky streams, drenched in sunshine and rain, lost to technology and the modern world?

Couldn’t we?

The book, you ask, oh yes. The book that set this post to scribbling. It is no small thing for a book to cause me to get lost in it’s world. Typically it takes a fantastical work of fiction for me to lose myself in it’s pages. The images and the prose in this book had me lost to this modern age as I turned its pages. In fact they drove me outdoors, seeking a silence that is found in only in oak forests, listening for the rush of icy water over stones, and the tromp of my boots through deep, slushy snow. Isn’t this what books should do? Inspire us to experience for ourselves that which only the world around us can provide? Sure, there may not be actual faeries in our fields (I do believe in faeries, I do believe in faeries…), but what is so wrong with wandering slowly along the back fence watching for mushroom rings at the edge of the forest just in case? When did it become so unfavorable for our children and ourselves to be lost to our imaginations?

Einstein is credited with saying, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”


And while we can’t know for certain that Einstein actually said this, it does not make the words any less true. The descriptiveness, the nature, the imagination and creativity in fairy tales should inspire us all. Not just cause us to be more intelligent by increasing our imagination, but cause us to notice more. As we are more aware we will need words for the things we are seeing. Where will those words come from, if we take them away from our children? First by taking the physical experiences and then, by removing those words from the books they would seek out to put a voice to some feeling or expression they would like to share?

This is the local library copy, if anyone is looking for a gift for me I’d love my own!

There is a link in the back of this book to John Muir’s website (pretty sure y’all know he is my nature inspiration); johnmuirtrust.org, I was lost in this site for quite some time, look for more on what I found soon-ish. I’ll have to drag myself out of bed earlier as I am not giving up any more minutes outdoors in this early Minnesota Spring to sit at my screen. I recommend checking out the site of course, but more? I recommend going outside, as I’m sure Mr. Muir would himself advise. Follow the nearest path, dirt is truly best, to where it leads. Sit awhile. Listen. Maybe you were deprived of this in your own childhood. If you don’t have words for what you hear and see, search them out. They are back there, deep in your subconscious I believe, though you may need an older copy of Merriam Webster to find them.

Go on, why are you still sitting here?

Winter or The Knowledge of Cold

After my entire life spent hating the winter, in one short week winter gave me gladness, willingly. Winter just proved the most forgiving season.

Okay, okay, okay…I know what you’re all going to say about this post before I even write it. I know it hasn’t been “that” cold this season and I know that I have been here hating the misery of winter for eternity so my sudden decision to mostly embrace the misery seems almost comical. Please, let me type it all out though. February can be relentlessly long and bitterly cold, I need to have proof that I can make it. Here it is; my winter joy (thanks for that one Brooke) in 2020.

This week I initiated an outdoor activity with my children three times.

Please, do you know how amazing that is for me? First let’s remember that it is January and while the highs had been in the 20’s, I am a firm 30 degree “low” kind of girl. We have a foot or more of snow on the ground too, which is lovely to look at, but toes freeze even in boots when you’re standing around in it. One day we went out it was only 18 degrees…eighteen…who even am I?

A couple of times this winter I have asked a friend if her kids wanted to come skate at the rink near our house before open gym. The days have been mild if grey, and I was pretty confident that I’d be able to deal with the cold for the good of the children, and I did. It was only an hour and it was actually fun. Then another friend invited us to skate, we stayed out longer and I may have later whispered to my husband how much I enjoyed skating.

Cut to this week.

This past week was a hard one for me. My babygirl turns twelve in four days and that feels bigger than I am ready for. She gets to go on a great trip, one that I am firmly not ready for her to go on, which takes her away at a time of year when I need sameness. It’s been dark, cloud-covered, frigid. The littles have been bickering endlessly. The teensy has been trying to sleep better, but it’s up and down. My seasonal dip toward depression has been nearing it’s low point…plus we are closing in on a mental season that is hard for me. Six weeks from now marks a tragic anniversary that brings an almost physical weight to my body. This next month will be marked in a countdown of memory.

As you read that I want you to feel it, like really, really. This past Wednesday I was done. I had gone to my room, shut the door and lay down to cry. The endless fighting, the back talk, the rudeness in my house was too much on top of the mental load I carry around this time of year. I couldn’t do it and I knew it. I knew that I could not stay in this house with my people and make it to the end of another winter. I was angry with myself for choosing to stay here when I could have made the choice to go somewhere, anywhere, else.

And then I did it.

I wiped my eyes, mostly. I went back out to my children, told them that there were things that needed doing whether we wanted to do them or not. Then I told them to put their snow pants on. I took them to the sledding hill in town. It was the middle of the day and we had the hill to ourselves. It was gray and cold, but we slid down the hill fast and trudged back up together slowly for nearly two hours. I looked down at the teensy once and said; “who knew your momma left her smile out here in the snow?” and I almost cried again right there.

I came home that day and I knew. It all added up. There was joy out there on that hill in the snow. Joy in how we played together and laughed together. There was just as much fun in the snow as there had been hiking last Autumn. Just as many smiles as swimming in the lake last Summer. Just as much squealing as splashing in Spring rain at the end of the driveway….we were having fun. In winter. I posted to my Facebook about how odd it was, if you follow along over there you’ll know how little I post and you’ll recognize some of these photos, but I needed to get it out of my head quickly and down on paper that I really, really, had fun!

We skated again with friends on Thursday and on Friday we went back to the hill with more friends. In just three days I spent close to six hours outside. That may be more time than I have spent outdoors voluntarily in January ever. And I loved it…weird.

There was no big change. No sudden realization. It seemed like an acceptance more than anything else. This is where I choose to live. These are the people I choose to do life with every day. This (being stuck inside or feeling forced to go outside) is no way to live. It is simple survival and I do not want to model survival for my children, I want to show them how to thrive. More than that though, I actually want to thrive, not just for them, but because this is my only life, my only chance.

So I went outside.

Yes, in January and yes in the snow and yes at 18 degrees. And despite literal years of protestations; I didn’t die. I had actual fun. At the end of each of these three days I felt like the girl that I am in Summer when we are snuggled into our camper bed after a full day on a state park trail. I felt infused with joy. The fresh, cold air had filled each particle of my being. There is a great deal of grace here. Do you know? After my entire life spent hating the winter, in one short week winter gave me gladness, willingly. Winter just proved the most forgiving season. This is quite unexpected.

I know this is only a small window into my days and a minute peek into my vast wintertime experience. I know that next week there are highs forecast in the teens and my own preteen will be far away and I may feel that tug toward darkness and sadness. The desire to hide under blankets may overwhelm me once more. That’s why I had to write this down, I need to be able to see that I felt good with afternoons spent outside. Not just a little better. I didn’t just make it through the day without yelling. I wasn’t only able to survive because I got some fresh air. I was able to thrive, to lighten, to breathe…

That seems a smidge dramatic.

As a sort of closing to this ramble I am placing a challenge here. Not for you, though you could choose it for yourself as well, but a challenge for me. To continue out in all weather, regardless of it’s perceived goodness. I may be cold. I may get wet. I may not love every minute of it, but I can see now how I need it. Like really, really. Just as much as I need my toes in the dirt and the sun on my back I need the icy air in my lungs. I am not merely a child of sunshine, but of outside, I can see how being indoors wrecks me. I will give in to this knowledge and not remain stuck in the lie that inside is safe and warm and somehow better. I will force myself and my people out the door into the wider world because I am better when I am out here. There is no longer any doubt.

If you need a push to get out, may this be a gentle encouragement to you. I have honestly hated winter since childhood, if I can go out and find some sense of self, some bit of internal sunshine, then I know it can come to any of us. The winter is long dear friends, maybe we needn’t be sucked into misery for it’s duration…maybe.

Digging Out

All that day I wondered over that old life skill put to use in this completely foreign to it place. About a time and space where I learned a lot, just enough to get out as it was.

Yesterday my oldest daughter tried to back out of her apartment parking spot only to slide sideways and get good and stuck in the deep snow behind her. She has never been stuck in the snow, never slid into the ditch, never slipped sideways and scared on a dirt road, at least not that she’s ever told me about. She called her dad and he called me to go see if I could help her dig out, help her get re-parked and help her realize that this happens to pretty much everyone at least once. So I loaded up littles and shovels and drove across town.

The roads were slick, but I was not worried. In my previous life I had dug myself out of snowed in driveways many times, and had to call for help quite a few times as well. I’d helped to push and helped to turn steering wheels this way and that. I knew what to do. I giggled at her when I pulled in and she was a good sport. We dug a little, pushed a bit, tried a few tricks that I knew. We almost had it. Then I shut the car door as I hopped out and…the door locked. Oh shit. I felt dumb.

There was little to do aside from laugh again, so we pushed a bit more, dug more snow from under the car. A kind neighbor brought some salt and sand over and poured it behind her tires while she called around trying to find a spare key that wasn’t far off. Turns out we had one at home. We drove away, grabbed the keys, opened her doors, got her pushed her out. She smiled big, and made me caramel brownies to say thanks, she’s a pretty good kid.

All that day I wondered over that old life skill put to use in this completely foreign to it place. I wrote about the last decade of my life this past week and I suppose that I’m still resting in that mental space. It’s been a long ago time, but I once wrote about a now distant fear I had. About a time and space where I learned a lot, just enough to get out as it was. If you feel much like jumping back to either post you might get a teensy bit more out of this one, and I’d love to hear what you think. It was good to dig the girl out though, in doing so, it felt like one of those lessons I’m always circling back to maybe cycled closed.

Do you know what I mean? I don’t feel that fear anymore, that inability to speak up and tell myself, if not some other person, that I got this. It’s no longer necessary for my heart or my brain to ask someone else to do much of anything for me anymore…this is a whole other issue and I’m not heading that direction with this post. To know that I can do any of the things, well, it makes me smile big. It helps me know that I can teach these kids to do “it”, whatever “it” is. It’s an all too infrequent reminder that I once was afraid; and now, well, now I’m not.

I have to give the credit for this to God. I mean, I really did try to put myself in bad places when I was younger. I definitely should’ve seen what was coming, but I turned a blind eye to my own gut response. In walking away too there could have been a lot more bad than good. I believe the only reason that there was not is because God stepped in and reminded me Whose I am. Through all of the trails I backtracked and all of the paths I recrossed over the years I know He was leading me, always circling back so that I wouldn’t forget those lessons that were most needed by my soul.

Even after I left it took years for the gripping anxiety to let go of me. I was not one to trust that it would all be alright, I had to keep seeing the worst, focusing on what could happen, dipping into the worry pot over and over again. The more I focused on God though, the more I saw that all would be well. Even now in this season where I reevaluate the budget and try to figure how to put a tax refund to good use I still sometimes forget that there has always been enough and there will always be enough and I will never be lost to Him and that is all that matters. There are days when I have to get out of my head and remember.

Remember that never for one minute was I lost to Him. Never once did He step away. Never once was I stuck in a place that He could not, would not, dig me out of. In all of God’s goodness and grace He was always there, leaning in close, whispering that I could do it. Not in my own power of course, but in relying on His. The hindsight is always so clear isn’t it? I often wonder why I could not have seen even a smidge of this path ahead of time, but then…would I have chosen it? Chosen to walk this rough and rocky road? Yeah, not likely.

The place in my journey now seems less difficult, I often sit in the quiet of the morning and wonder if that is because I see God more clearly now, listen more carefully for His voice? Or, is it because the path is smooth that it is easier for me to see His hand in my days? I repeatedly remind myself that it is the former. I know in the deepest parts of me that the good would not come without God. There was no way to get to this knowledge of Him without it coming from Him.

It’s good to know that there is only so much left up to me. If I stay on the track that is marked out for me, paying attention to the guide, I will not stumble. Even as the road is still rocky and sometimes filled with snow. I’m not sure how much this ramble will mean to you today, but it is speaking to my own heart in the pouring-out of it. Often that is all that I really want from these posts; therapy in the telling of my days.

There are things I can do now, that I was once afraid to do. And I smile, glad in this knowledge, not that I am stronger, but that my God is. I stumbled across Psalm 17 in this search for a path, and this is where I leave you today. It’s only a handful of verses and I encourage you to read the chapter in it’s entirety. Verses five and six are mine though, written for me and written on my heart as well.

“My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled. I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.”

Ice

Today I drug my over-tired, crabby, mopey self over to the rink by our house. The kids needed to move and I know the temps are dropping so I forced myself to go.

You just never can tell where you might find your smile…

Sometimes you simply must do the thing so that you don’t succumb to the dark place bubbling inside of you.

This day it was necessary for me to take the sleep-deprived, frozen, close to angry version of myself and lace up skates. Without this excursion I would have curled up under the covers and cried, not even kidding a little.

The ice was good, the shadows deep, the sunlight filtered, the air just cold enough. Our laughter was loud.

My time outdoors is short in winter, but today it was good, today I was thankful for clear ice and sharp skates. I’m a smidge worried about the cold ahead and how hard it’s going to hit me, maybe skating will help. I’ll at least hope that it does.

Peace in the cold is a good thing to find. For a few minutes today, out in the cold, it wasn’t really so bad being “stuck” in this place. It was almost joyful, maybe even fun.

Contentment

Y’all have been here for awhile. You know me. I don’t like the cold. I do not look forward to sweaters and boots. I could easily walk away from this state for several months each year and live happily (don’t worry, I’m not going to do that). Last winter was a hard one for me, I went into it with a much better attitude and I held onto that positivity well into January. The season dragged on though, it always does. Do what you will to save your own sanity; stay in Autumn until the winter solstice, reach out and grab Spring while there is still a foot of snow on the ground. The ice and snow, sub-zero temps, layers upon layers…I can not love it.

I do hope to avoid the endless slog of sadness this winter though. I’m going to make an attempt to photograph and write about the things that bring me joy. Joy on the journey; that’s sort of one of my “things”. I don’t know exactly how it’ll go, but I have some ideas. My hope is that in sharing the things that are beautiful and warm and meaningful here on this page I can stay afloat just a bit higher this year. I want to look at this winter as a season of rest, a time to nourish and refresh. Instead of as the cold, dark place in my soul that I fall into and struggle to escape.

Please understand that I will not anticipate or be loving the winter, but I’d like to do more than survive it. The last few days I’ve felt myself slipping into bad winter-time habits; hiding indoors, sending my children out while I stay in, bundling myself in with books and blankets, not stepping out around the fire on the deck for fear of the chilly bite in the air. I am not going to do this for the next six months, I am not. I mean, except for the book part…totally going to do that.

As Autumn continues to swirl the yellow leaves in my yard as opposed to swirling snow I am choosing now to look at each good thing for what it is, not at what it is not. The leaves are crunchy under my feet, my scarf is soft and warm, the sky is clearest blue…these individual joys hold merit on their own. They do not have to be made better by comparing them with the cold-that-is-not-quite-yet-here. I know this now, but I’m posting reminders on my calendar to come back and reread these words, lest I forget.

My attitude change toward winter is a hard fought battle for me, you all know. Earlier this Summer, in deciding to stay, I found that Paul’s words came to me again and again; “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…” (from Philippians 4). Don’t get me wrong, winter is nowhere near the conditions Paul is referring to, I get that. I will not compare my minuscule “suffering” to his. What I did do though is realize that my struggle with winter was not what God wanted from or for me. Yes, I believe He wanted to hear all of my complaints, to trust Him for a way out, to listen to His peace spoken in the still, small hours of frozen mornings. He also wanted me to learn, to grow, to not stay in that place where I could not, at least, be content regardless of the weather outside.

To be content has become my goal for the season ahead. I am reminding myself that contentment comes from Christ. I can (and oh! have I) worry over all. of. the. things., but this will bring my soul no rest. There is no contentment in my old fallback anxiety. I worry still, that I will succumb to the darkness and despair over the winter as I have in the past. In this worry I remembered some more of Paul’s words though and they reminded me how very not-alone I am. Both in my hatred of the season and in my desire to find joy in it.

“Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.” (from chapter 4, verse 14)

I have an amazing circle of women who I will rely on to keep me on a positive track and who will allow me to complain a bit too. I am hopeful that they will continue to “share in my troubles” and that we will lift each other up without fear of giving too much. I will beg a lot of grace from my family when I don’t want to go out, and they remind me of these words, and I regret writing them because it means actually bundling up and going out, and they will give it because they are so, so good to me. It will be so good of all of you to share in my troubles.

Ultimately, I have no idea how to make this Minnesota winter, and the many I can see in my future, positive. I’m open to suggestions that do not involve actually going out into it! I’m looking for ideas that will be fulfilling, while remembering who I am fundamentally. So, while I will likely take the kids ice skating a handful of times, I have no desire to purchase snowmobiles or an ice fishing shack. Though I will take them sledding, I will still be happier to make the cocoa when we get home. There will be long underwear under my jeans and there will be stocking caps on my head until May, and I refuse to be happy about either, but I will choose to be content in the love and peace God continues to offer me.

My kids on the beach in South Texas last year…one of my favorite wintertime memories!

Sledding, Slowing, and Seeing

This is sort of a different, but not really, post for me. I frequently ramble on about getting out of this miserable weather or how much I despise the cold and dark. Occasionally I talk about something happening in the lives of my children. I’ve decided that today I will relate an adventure instead of whining, discuss a few moments of joy in winter on a day when I’d give most anything for 50 degrees warmer than it is right now. Weird right?

A few weeks ago, before the bitter cold completely engulfed central Minnesota, I took my children outside in the cold. Three whole days. I really did. I pulled on snow-pants and tucked wool socks into boots and drove out for some winter fun. This is unusual for me, if you haven’t figured that out by now. I don’t go out in the cold, I stay in, tucked under a blanket with a mug of tea in my hand most afternoons from December until, oh I don’t know…June or so. But I did this thing in the hope that embracing the cold would help it to not suck quite so much, and it did! It really, really did.

On our first day out we went to the big sledding hill in town on a perfectly sunshine-y day. Since it was the middle of the day there were only a few other kids on the hill and my bigger two went down and up at least a million times. Smiles plastered to their sweet faces. The teeny made it down, but needed convincing, and assistance, in coming back up. Eventually she and I made it across to gaze out over the river and walk along the stone ledge, we followed squirrel tracks in the patches of otherwise undisturbed snow, and she squealed with delight as she zoomed down the smaller hill.

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The sky was a perfect blue and I couldn’t help but stare up and think to myself that if this were winter, actual winter, I could handle it. For a brief moment in time I thought that I might actually make it out of this winter alive and with my smile still on my face. This day was filled with joy and peace. We were happy, even in the cold.

The second day out was more of the same. Sledding on a different hill with equally beautiful weather and, this time, friends. The day was only marred by forgotten ice skates. There were treks into the deep snow, a birds nest at eye level, and kids full of kindness. I have seldom been more surprised by a winter day than I was this day. The sun shone and the thermostats rose above 40 degrees. It was blissful and I was so very grateful.

I held out hope that this would be the winter that I didn’t hide indoors, that this would be the winter when I would do the embracing of the cold that everyone believes will bring me wintertime happiness. And I did get one more day. I am thankful for that third day and the walk we took. Being able to go out with my kids on adventures is one of my very favorite things. They have no agenda, few preconceived notions about what the day will hold. They need only a water bottle and a few snacks to explore a new space.

I love this about them.

I really hope that their attitude for adventures does not change much in the coming years, and not just for my own ease and enjoyment. If they can continue to be easy going as we travel and explore then they will continue to see the best in situations that may be less than ideal. They will keep their eyes open, slowing down to notice the red berries, the cup-shaped leaf, the tiny piece of agate in the gravel. If they can travel easy they will travel far. If they travel far they will be filled with wonder all of the days of their lives and I can think of little else that would be worth more, to give to a child.

The way this world spins, the pace it sets, the hustle we are expected to display…it causes the lives of children to be devoid of wonder. The lives of us all. I will continue to work to slow my tiny little piece of this world, if only a fraction and if only for my short time here. I will wander river paths while littles stomp in the snow. I will haul teenies up snow-hills so we can stay out longer. I will remember to bring the damned skates next time.

I will not enjoy winter. I don’t have it in me really. If it’s below 25 degrees, I’m not going out. I’m just not. I will revel in moments though. I will soak in the apricity, even if I have to sit on my living room floor under the picture window to do so. I will snap photos of joy-filled faces in deep snow and of Christmas tree lights shrouded under a blanket of white. I will be present this year, not just begging for it to end, but noticing all that I can while I’m here. This is not really what I’ve been encouraged to do by so many well wishing friends and strangers, but it is the best I can do. If it happens to get above thirty again soon, I’ll be one of the first people out there hopping over puddles, pulling sleds through the streets, and staring at the clear, blue sky.

On one of the last warm winter nights my sweet husband lit a fire on the deck, we stood out with blankets around our shoulders and hats pulled low over our ears. The stars were out and the noise of the city was somehow hushed just a bit. It was almost as if someone wanted me to see what winter could be. How I could be a small part of something that I hold such contempt for. How there is good, even in what we view as bad, and that we really don’t understand it all anyway. The peace washed over and the fire burned down to embers, time slowed, if only for a moment.

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Trusting Their Choices

I’ve been thinking about how I will allow my children to be more independent in their decision making. Since they were small, we have allowed quite a bit of freedom. Letting them jump in the puddles and then dealing with cold, wet feet has always been the best way for them to learn not to jump in puddles with tennis-shoes on. My sweet husband calls this method the “experiential” manner of parenting. I’m not sure if that’s actually a thing, but while he teases me with it from time to time, I think it is the best way to describe my overall philosophy for life. How will we learn if we do not experience?

Still, my ten-year-old is getting to a point in life where learning through doing can cost her more than just wet feet. I wonder how to provide all of the right activities for her to live her bigger-girl life without overly harsh consequences? Too much freedom given in the teen years can lead to all sorts of unchangeable life situations, choices that will need to be lived through for years to come, not just an afternoon. Yet I know that this child learns best by living, by putting her truest self out there and trying it out in the real world. I have no answers for these questions this morning, we will walk along this path together, hopefully the puddles won’t be too deep for awhile yet and we figure out the necessary boundaries as we go.

I also have been watching my littler kids, my husband and I give them a lot of space to learn by trying things out, but these two youngest kids are around a lot of other peoples parents, how do I let them think for themselves when so many other mommas don’t give their own kids the freedoms we allow? How do I respect other parents’ boundaries, while still letting my kids respect their own? I know that I need to be more vocal, explaining to my mom-friends the “why” behind the seemingly crazy things I “permit” my children to choose. I forget that our way is what has worked best for our family and, while I don’t need to force it on anyone else, I do need to respect it even in situations where other kids might not be allowed to do the things my kids choose to do.

If I don’t respect the guidelines that I show my kids one on one when we are in a group situation, it sends a mixed message and my kid may start to question her body or brain. That is something that will come back to bite me when we are climbing or on an unfamiliar trail and they suddenly question themselves in a moment of fear. I know that by letting them climb out as far as they feel safe, by letting them jump off the highest wall they are comfortable on, by simply allowing them to choose to wear a coat or not, they are learning that their choices matter. More than that they are learning that they have power over their own choice. They also see that they are capable, sometimes they fall, sometimes they flail, sometimes they come down a step first, but because we are there to bandage the scrapes and encourage the efforts, they trust themselves.

I suppose that is how I’m hoping to make it through the teen years with grace this time. We have allowed, permitted, encouraged even, this child to listen to her body. To trust her gut, to choose what is best for her through all of her “little” years. Unconsciously, by supporting her in these small things we have encouraged her to do the same with the big things to come. Hopefully she has failed enough and dealt with unpleasant consequences enough times to have those lessons to draw from as she matures. Ideally, she will have so much faith in her own body and brain that she will not fall to pressures or fail to be true to herself.

And so we continue. This day I will allow my eight-year-old to wear shorts…in January…in Minnesota…because that is his choice and he has yet to regret it, though I can’t look at him some days without shivering. I will watch my tiny stomp out into the snow wearing dress shoes and be there holding the boots I suggested before we left the house if she chooses to admit that snow is cold when it melts into your shoes! (I know that she will not admit that, she is as stubborn as I am and she will deal with wet feet for as long as she is able, but next time? She’ll choose the boots from the start because she’ll remember.) I will explain myself better to the other moms that we interact with so that I don’t have kids who second guess themselves.

This is not always easy. I often try very hard to explain my “why” to my kids when I want them to do one thing and they are certain that their own way is best. It is hard to remember that cold fingers will not kill an otherwise healthy child when my own life experiences tell me to put on mittens. It is difficult to stop and see their independence growing when the way they want to be independent causes me to need to plan ahead more. I mean, you really can’t let kids be free to explore their world without remembering to pack a spare pair of clothes and a towel or two. I’m banking on this being best though, that as they grow up they will know themselves and have a wealth of their own experiences to draw from. Not just scary words that grown ups threatened them with.

While my confidence often lags behind what I know to be true in this area, I have decided to commit to advocating for them more vocally. If your family plans to meet up with mine on one of these mild winter days please be prepared. I will not be telling my kids they can’t eat snow because they’ll get too cold, that they can’t take their coat…and hoodie…and snow-pants off (insert eye-roll here). Because I trust that when they are cold they will put them back on. I will continue to let my kids climb the trees, stand on the ledges, and jump from the rocks. Whether we are with friends or not. Because I really, really do want them to hear their own inner voice whisper and they won’t be able to do that if I’m constantly screaming at them to “not”.

Join me won’t you? It takes only a few steps. Choose a day and pack the car with all of the things you might need, take the extra time to do this. Then let your kid choose. Shorts in winter? Sure, if you want (you can pack pants). Take a few steps out onto the thin ice at the bend in the creek? Yes (you can explain currents and how far is safe, you can have spare boots and socks in the backpack). Climb on the frozen, metal playground equipment? Yep. (Maybe put dry mittens on first though?) Life should be experienced friends, even at four-years-old.