Follow My Lead

Katie has been working on her first quarter project for school. The assignment is to make an Autumn Collage consisting of anything she sees outside that is indicative of the changing seasons. Papa laughed when he learned the project details since he said it seemed that it was tailor-made for our first-grader. I actually, had a different reaction. I kind of felt like, why are they having them do this? It just seemed so basic and obvious. I mean don’t all first-graders already know all about this? It’s all my urchins want to talk about.

In the Woods

Then when Melissa was here we were talking about some of the crazy stuff Katie says and does — and how Katie and Melissa’s son were totally cut from the same cloth — and where it comes from. And somehow that conversation and a walk in the woods with my mom and my urchins gave me some insight. Lots of kids don’t take walks in the woods. They don’t have a “clubhouse” under a willow tree. They don’t have a nature table overflowing with feathers, acorns, leaves, bark, and turtle shells. They aren’t looking for that heron, and the prickle ball tree, and the cat-tails, and that place where the lizard hides on their walk to school. In fact they probably don’t walk to school at all even though they likely live within a mile of the building.

The Woods

And you know what I realized, I’m doing a good job. And if you are a reader of this blog, I’m guessing that you are doing a good job too. I spend a lot of time agonizing over how I could have been a better mother in this or that situation. It turns out though, the times I lose my temper, or forget the right gym shoes, or don’t read three chapters before bed just fall by the wayside and what remains is those walks in the woods, those times when we’re digging in the garden. My girl knows the difference between an oak and a maple. She knows that you can eat johnny-jump-ups and rose petals. She knows about the moon, the stars, the seasons.

Budding Naturalist

And I used to think that it wasn’t such a big deal, but now I realize it is. It turns out that as we wander through their childhoods these urchins of mine are following me and paying attention to what attracts my attention along the path. They notice. It was like a little lightbulb went on in my heart when I saw that all the time we take to show them how wonderfully beautiful, and amazing, and awe inspiring the world is has been worth it. So, the first-quarter project really was no big deal for Katie — Mommy, do you think I can label each leaf with the tree name and also what animals eat the nuts? — but it turns out it was kind of a big deal for me.

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14 Responses to “Follow My Lead”


  1. 1 emily October 21, 2009 at 9:32 am

    i think i need to tape these words to my bathroom mirror.

  2. 2 rachel | buttonsmagee October 21, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Good for you for seeing the truth. YOu are an awesome mama! I think we all need to say this to ourselves more often.

  3. 4 erin October 21, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    What a great realization. I think that if we let our children see our passion about life it will be contagious and what better gift to them than passion for life. I loved this post.

  4. 5 melissa bridgman October 21, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    You are an awesome mother. And it does matter. All I know about nature I learned from being out in it with my mother. And in nature is where my bull-headed son gets along best with his bull-headed mother. When we’re observing and learning together. This was a beautiful post. xoxo

  5. 8 erin October 22, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    lovely, jennifer.

  6. 9 Stefani October 23, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    This is SO exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you so much for speaking into my day today, friend!

  7. 10 Kristin October 24, 2009 at 11:01 am

    It still amazes me too that so many kids are cut off from the natural world….especially when it’s so good for them! I especially love it when we get to go visit my parents, and we can safely turn the girls loose outside without any supervision.

  8. 11 jodi October 26, 2009 at 7:58 am

    1st time to your blog. And I can say 2 things over and above the “it’s great!” 1 – this post makes me continue to cry for happy. 2 – the pictures are amazing. That baby bird in April. How how how did you get that. Wasn’t the mom on her way to peck you. So beautiful and SO SPRING. Thanks for the warm feeling and I’ll visit often.

  9. 12 Visty October 30, 2009 at 3:07 am

    This resonates with me because my husband and I sometimes admonish ourselves about not getting the kids out enough, but then, at other times, we are reminded how much more our kids are able to connect with nature than a lot of kids around them. Even the kids we meet out IN nature are frequently being led around in a way that has no good effect on them at all.

    I remember being in Washington, near the Ice Caves, and a boy was asking his father why the ice was there. The father said, “The ice was here so all the Indians could put their food in the cave, before they had refrigerators.” He wasn’t trying to be silly; he was making it up specifically to put the child off.

    Not mentioning this to bash another parent, but we looked at each other and realized that the one thing we were doing right was to take time to answer our children’s questions, about nature and space and how the world works, whenever and whatever they asked. That small gesture, every time, means a world of difference in so many ways.

    • 13 Mama Urchin October 30, 2009 at 8:13 am

      We have a “policy” that we always tell our kids the truth, even when the question is difficult. Certainly sometimes we don’t always include scary or complicated details but I really think children are smarter than a lot of people give them credit for. Thanks for the comment, I hope you have a great weekend.

      -Jennifer

  10. 14 deb November 5, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    You are so so right. Being a good parent is not about connecting the dots but about being about to live in the moment. Well done you (and all of us who do the same) for noticing.


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