“Mom, if I don’t get my feet wet, I won’t have any fun!”
In the first 2 minutes after school dismissal, my 6-year-old taught me a more concise and valuable lesson than she learned all day in kindergarten. Not that counting by tens and reading The Little Red Hen and sharing with friends aren’t valuable lessons. They very much are. My children attend an excellent example of America’s public schools. They learn a lot, from teachers who care a lot. What they learn in school these days includes a great deal of emphasis on Character Education. They learn about honesty, respect, and friendship. They learn about diversity, tolerance, and building a bully-free environment. But sometimes, all the books and well-researched lesson plans in the world can’t top the insight that comes from mixing a 6-year-old girl and a mountain of snow.
OK, so I made her wear her gym shoes to school, instead of her boots, because I (mistakenly) thought it was a gym day. Who could blame me? With all the snow days we’ve had lately, I can’t tell my Day 5 (art and library) from my elbow. And now (because the sidewalks were clear for the 1st time in days, and the sun was shining for the 1st time in weeks, and her little sister was finally over her head cold) I was asking her to walk home from school.
MOUNDS of hard-packed snow.
What child wouldn’t want to climb? And what mother in her right mind wouldn’t instantly reply with “Your feet are going to get wet!”
Then I realized, she was right. If you don’t get your feet wet, how ARE you going to have any fun? You can’t stay on the sidewalks all the time. If something as easy to resolve as damp socks and cold toes keeps you away from adventure then you are in for a long, boring walk.
The thing is – I’m not like her by nature. I’ve always been a worrier. A planner. A protector (of myself and others). I want the adventure on the icy mountain – but with a map, 2 pairs of dry socks, waterproof boots and crampons. (Plus a warm meal and a hot toddy in the ski lodge when I’m done. OK, let’s make it cocoa for the 6 year old.)
It dawned on me that my automatic, logical reply would teach her the wrong lesson. This was character education, and her character is bold. Her character is one I would have rejoiced to have at any time in my 37 years. So I said to myself “the hell with wet feet” and to her, “You know what, go ahead! Climb away! We’ll change your shoes at home.”
“And have hot cocoa, Mommy?”