UNTIL...







"Weeds are flowers too when you get to know them."





The other day, I ran across this quote by A.A. Milne, author of the classic Winnie the Pooh tales. How lovely it must be to live amongst such thoughts I think. Its conspicuous innocence dances with me, yet I struggle to hold on...





"Weeds are flowers too when you get to know them."





I circle its earnestness. It circles my adultness. And just when I think we've found our rhythm, my reason shatters the music...





"Weeds are flowers too UNTIL you get to know them."





Until. A single word can change everything.





Until snatches the sweetness away.


Until stops the imagination cold.


Until insists it is the only, obvious, and irrevocable truth.





Until I remember that "until" is a mere matter of opinion.





A MATTER OF OPINION


Your child knows what she knows and no more, equipped only with her own, naive reference points to evaluate and categorize information then form her own opinions about things. Until...








ULTRA-ABSORBENCY


As a parent, whether it seems like it or not some days, your little one is tuned in to your every word, attitude, emotion, gesture and feeling, absorbing it all and interpreting it to the best of her young ability.





As your child's principle life guide, you are leaving an indelible mark on her world view, which in my opinion, is the most powerful part of the parent's job, especially when it comes to matters that matter... principles, morals and ethics, personal safety and risk assessment, social appropriateness, and personal/emotional regulation.





But your influence extends far beyond the "meaningful" into the garden variety stuff of everyday banalities we adults don't think twice about. Like weeds.





KNOWLEDGE AND OPINION ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS


When you tell your child a flower is a weed, she'll believe you. And when you tell her weeds are bad, she'll believe that too.  But what have you just imparted? The word, "weed" is factual and true. The label "bad" is actually just your opinion.





Now, consider this. What if before you injected that opinion, your child thought this flower-turned-weed was the most beautiful and exotic thing she'd ever seen? What's going through her little mind now that she "knows" weeds are bad?





She might follow your lead and change her view to yours. After all, you are her most trusted advisor and what does she know from weeds? But even if she doesn't, limitations have now been imposed that didn't have to be...





1. DOUBT. Because you said so, she may decide that her initial fascination was somehow "wrong." And nobody likes to be wrong. Worse, her trust in her own judgment might be dented just a little. What about the next flower she encounters? Will she appreciate it for its natural wonder, or naturally wonder if it's a weed.





2. UNDER-DISCOVERY. Exploring and learning is incredibly empowering for little ones. But shading the fact of a thing with an opinion of a thing (good or bad) is bound to limit what it can be in her young and fertile mind. For instance, "icky mud" is decidedly different from "mud."





Discovery is a personal, even selfish process for a young child that must be safeguarded for her own opinion-making purposes. Yes, HER opinion. You see, her feelings about what she encounters in her world are the very basis for developing healthy self-esteem, independent thought, curiosity, persistence, and resilience... all essential ingredients to her approach to learning... and life.





3. SHARED VIEWPOINT. And what about you? What could you be short-circuiting that the two of you might discover together? Shaping your child's world view may be the most powerful part of being a parent, but letting your child show you how she sees the world opens the doors to illumination that is yours to keep for a lifetime.








WHAT'S THE HARM?


I realize that every ounce of the parent in you wants to provide your child with all that you "know" in order to prepare and protect her for life. But before you do, ask yourself, "How can I share with my child what she needs to know while leaving room for her to form her own opinions?"





When I arrived at this inevitable crossroads with my girls, and now with my granddaughter, I stop to ask myself another question... "What's the harm if she doesn't know what I know right now?" 





Clearly, if there's an apparent physical hazard, I step in. Likewise, if social or emotional behavioral issues arise, it may be time for some guidance.





But when my granddaughter tells me dandelions are beautiful, I smile broadly and agree completely... until she decides otherwise, of course.














In this holiday season of innocence and renewal, I wish for you seeds of illumination and weeds of wonder in the New Year.




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