I’ve been working on art less than I was this past fall and winter– my love of gardening has been rekindled, and now that we have the space for it, and I’m not pregnant or caring for a newborn, I’ve dived back in. That’s what I’ve been doing while my son’s sleeping during the day– tending to seedlings, repotting, researching, organizing. I’ve also been cleaning the house, getting rid of things, childproofing (there’s something new every day) and cooking for him.
I find tasks like these helpful for my creative mind. My thoughts wander into new ideas, revisiting the longstanding ones, finding new inspiration, and thinking about what my son and I are learning. This last point helps sharpen my ideas into something complete.
Working as a nanny and raising my son has shown me the importance of visual art in early childhood education. I’ve been around long enough to see the changes in animation and illustration styles targeted at kids. It’s unnecessary for me to insert my opinion here on various children’s books and media here, but as I’ve been watching my son learn about our world, I feel like I’m starting to figure out how I’d like to contribute with my artwork and writing.
Last week, while playing in the park, the grandmother of a little girl remarked “when children learn not to be afraid of nature, they’re less likely to want to harm it as they grow older”. My son and her granddaughter were picking up sticks and showing them to each other, and I smiled. Covered in leaf debris with some acorn shell stuck to his cheek, I love how relaxed my son is in this state.
Yesterday, we were at our local playground, and a two-year-old girl was watching a red wriggler on the synthetic cushioned ground. She laid on her belly, completely still and mesmerized. A pack of slightly older children descended upon her, intrigued by the worm, wanting to be in on what she knew. The oldest boy, ten, insisted on picking the worm up with his shovel. His mother told him to leave it, and not to touch it, as it could be poisonous “because it’s red”.
Over and over, she told him to leave it, and he couldn’t let it go. A few minutes later, his mother left the scene, and the older children all started taking turns touching the worm. The two-year-old girl was still holding her ground, watching it. Then the oldest boy leaves and returns shortly with a sharp stick and stabs the worm, over and over, right in front of her. Eventually, the boy’s father came over and told him to stop because the stabbing would puncture the playground’s synthetic flooring. The little girl, who had been quietly watching the worm, ran over to her nanny, sobbing, hysterical, and had to be carried to the other side of the playground.
I was grateful that my son, as young as he is, had his back towards the scene the whole time. He had been staring my changing expression as I watched it unfold. I try not to interfere with other people’s parenting unless it directly affects my child, but I still feel, now, like I should have said something. I don’t want to pass judgement on other families that have parents or children who are not bothered by inflicting harm on plants and wildlife. I instead want my son (and other children) to understand why we are gentle and quiet with our gifts from the natural world.
I’ve rewritten my children’s book about the woods with the rabbit as the main character. Explaining to a child how to be quiet and nearly invisible in nature is difficult, but I thought that perhaps a wild rabbit could show that to us. In my book, it is the rabbit who hears and sees and smells all of the treasures of the forest, not only because these animals have senses far superior to ours, but because she is silent.
The first year of my child’s life has simplified mine, somehow, even though it seems more difficult in a practical sense. It sounds awfully cliche but it rings true. I look back to the absolute shock my life and body was thrown into after his birth, and I feel like it was just the way my life had to restart and begin to see with new eyes. The gifts of the world have shown themselves to me in their most simple forms. I’m grateful that I was made to stop everything else to witness them, and that I get to watch a great love of mine see them all unfold before him.