Monday, February 13, 2012

"Unrestrained Enquiry and Possibility"

"It's too muddy outside."

This sentiment was echoed repeatedly as the parents at my daughter's preschool today explained to their children why they weren't permitted to go out on the playground.  It got me thinking about what messages we give our children and the values inherent in those messages.  So while the parents may be saying "It's too muddy", children may be inferring: "dirt is bad" or "don't take risks" or "inside is better than outside."  These surely unintended meanings may find their way into children's interpretations of themselves and their environment that they carry with them into adulthood.

I was heartened to read this post by Jan White about children's outdoor play in winter on her wonderful blog about young children's nature education.  She described a processs of "unrestrained enquiry and possibility" that I felt applied not just to children's experiences in nature, but also to our experiences in the "adult world" as well.  It made me wonder about what a life lived with "unrestrained enquiry and possibility" would look like.  What if shame or embarrassment didn't get in the way of pursuing a dream of performing on stage for an audience?  What if we were truly honest with ourselves and in our relationships?  What if we allowed ourselves to get dirty once in a while and to enjoy the satisfaction that comes from cleaning up afterward?

I realize that in many ways, I've sought to restrain enquiry and possibility from my life.  The unknown can be messy, awkward, and scary.  I don't always want to try the new and unusual experience.  "Familiarity" has "family" at its root:  It's what we're born with, what we know.  But today, as others were declaring it "too muddy" to play outside, my daughter and I saw nothing but possibility as we headed out to the playground, just us two.