In the month of September, because I still get excited for school supply season, the Twelve Tiny Things community focused on the verb LEARN. We will be exploring the verb EAT in October. Please join us!
I identify as a learner. I’ve always loved school and generally strive to stretch myself, grow and evolve as an adult. In my season of raising infants, my learning spirit closed in on itself a bit. I sought out comfort of what is known in my sleep deprivation and intensely shifting identity as mother. Parenting was such a big learning curve, albeit joyful, that I existed in the pocket of things I was good at in every other facet of my life. Now that I am emerging from the trenches of raising infants, I can feel that learning part of my being perking back up. And now, unlike before, I have curious children to accompany and challenge me.
My preschooler has an insatiable curiosity and imagination. The whole world is his classroom. He is learning to play soccer, play tennis, cook, read, and draw. He wants to learn to play the violin. He is drawn to facts and gathers them at every turn. His favorite books right now are Over 1,000 Fantastic Earth Facts, Star Wars Character Encyclopedia, and Sports Illustrated Big Book of Who: All Stars. When we go to the bird sanctuary, he runs into the nature center and confidently grabs the magnifying glass to learn about nuts and beavers, plants and bear claws. I watch him in awe and try to follow his lead, being open to new information. I try to mimic his posture of confident curiosity and playful engagement with the world.
One night a few weeks ago I went over to my friend’s house to socialize. I noticed myself shut down a bit when I realized there were only three of us there and the plan was to play an intricate board game. I sat down and took a deep breath. As they were going over directions, a shame response bubbled up. What if I’m not smart enough to get it? I’m not savvy, strategic or playfully conniving enough to win. My instinct was to just go through the motions and protect myself from being embarrassed instead of just playing. I let these feelings come up, and tried to let them go. Almost every turn I asked for advice, not trusting my instincts or intelligence, until I let that go, too. On my way home I did some thinking about why shame and dread were part of my process of learning and playing a new board game. It had to do with my competitive nature, my experience of board games as a kid, and my misguided belief about my intelligence being limited to being book smart. Our experiences with learning as children affect our willingness to engage in learning as adults. Are we willing to falter? Fail? Try something new? How vulnerable are we willing to get? How expansive will we allow our universe to become?