“There are so many things you can do with water,” my 5 year old observed as he looked out over the lake.

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For me, this statement hits the goal.

My goal goes beyond the thousand fun and the refreshing “things to do” with water.

My real goal is that we maintain this openness, this way of seeing, which comes so naturally to a child.

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So when I provide access to the ultimate summer substance – luscious H2O – I carry this certain ambiance in myself…

I hold gratitude….for the privilege of clean water to play in.

I hold expansiveness and possibility….a state of expectation that new ideas will come today.

I hold trust…..that they are so very 99.9% unlikely to drown, and that my trust over them is far more valuable and important than their perfect safety.

Really.  I know that sounds crazy.  But in our risk-adverse society we’re easily tempted to deprive our kids of this aptitude:

Their very own natural, built-in ability to sense and handle danger, as well as deal with the consequences.

Don’t get me wrong — I am not negligent.  I watch.  I have honed that balance — I hold my part, and I trust them to hold their part.  I have a high trust in the innate wisdom of the child.  I seldom need to utter warnings, and rare, rare, rare are the injuries in our family.

Slow, careful, thoughtful, cautious yet curious, observant — these are qualities that describe my kids.  I’m not saying it’s the best or only way to be, but it is a lovely way to be.

As I hold and invite this side of the spectrum, I know full well that not every kid comes with internal ‘brakes’ and common sense mechanisms.

Running headlong into life with abandon is also beautiful, courageous, and to be admired.

What I’m highlighting here is the opportunity we all have to stretch our parenting to either side of the spectrum —

May the over-cautious become bold and the reckless one find pause.

May we help them experience their growing edges with greater and greater confidence of our own!

What can you do-

– i.e. my dad floated me out into the swamp on a tippy homemade raft at age 5…..

– experiment with different ‘vessels.’ Cups, bowls, buckets, pots, bottles, measuring cups, kiddie pools, pipes, troughs……anything that can hold water!

– set them up in different arrangements. Allow the child to discover the possibilities of travelling and pouring, filling and emptying, dumping and re-filling.

– you don’t need to explain or show. Just set it out. Let discover happen organically.

– experiment with real materials.  Avoid those commercialized plastic sets of sand castle buckets — they offer nothing substantial to the imagination.  A handful of kitchenware provides twice as much fascination and variety.  An actual cooking pot has the weight and realness that a child craves.

– expand their play vocabulary even more by seeking unique items at garage sales and thrift stores.  When you look “through the eyes of play” suddenly half the items in the store have a new and ingenious appeal.

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– observe yourself — your own level of fear or trust when it comes to water.  Take a step back.  Grow in awareness.  Boost gratitude and wonder.

– observe and notice your child’s growing edge.  What are they ready for?

– pause before you hit ‘play’ on the automatic WARNING tape.  Words of caution are not always necessary and can curb creativity and self-trust.

– even as you quiet any fears within yourself…..of course don’t put them in situations beyond their ability!  Use common sense and care, of course!

-think about what you value, and how that plays out.  Maybe you have hidden values that contradict other values.  Contemplate!

DSC_0232 (28)It’s fascinating and wonderful, how unique we all are!  My ways are not meant to be an ultimate prescription, but informative and hopefully inspiring!  We take from each other’s examples, and grow rich indeed….

Personally, I am enamoured by a young person’s ability to be calm and self-controlled.  But meanwhile, I am learning how to embrace polar opposites!  My kids could use a little more firecracker thrust and propulsion at times!

All polarities are meant to be journeyed on this path toward wholeness.

Enjoy the explore!

1 comment

Thanks, great article.

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