Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Letting My Own Little Flower Bloom

In my book, Child of Wonder, I have a chapter called “Let the Flower Bloom,” about allowing children to approach and arrive at their own creativity and expression at their own pace. In my opinion, it’s one of the most important chapters in the book, for without respect of personal pace and understanding of the range of development, I believe our children are doomed to have their creativity and personal expression stifled and even fatally crushed. On the other hand, when we do respect both their process and their pace in all they do, their creativity can bloom in ways we hadn’t ever imagined.

Today, this respect and patience, the kind a flower requires to beautifully bloom, paid off for my own little flower: my seven year-old son Zeal. Most things in life come very easy to Zeal – he talked at a very young age, has lots of friends, embraces life to the fullest, loves the joy of personal expression, and can reason and philosophize with the best of them.

For the last six years or so, we have been providing him positive water experiences and waiting for the day when he would glide along unaided, body and head fully submerged, and just swim away from his dear parents. But that day seemed further and further off in the distance. Would it ever arrive? Would he ever swim on his own?

At times, I’ve been silently discouraged by his progress, or lack thereof, as he refused to even put his face in the water, much less begin to swim laps. We’d tried everything: games, lessons, fun with friends, talks about the importance of learning water safety, more lessons, just giving up and not talking about any expectations, “practicing” in the bathtub, anything to get him to enjoy the water and make him more comfortable with the very natural experience that it is. Still, he continued to have reservations about the water and his precious little face.

When Zeal started walking, at 9 months, he literally and without warning to us just stood up and walked across the room. When a friend gifted him a hand-me-down bike just after his fourth birthday, he got on it and within 10 minutes of running behind him, he started riding around the park. So why should swimming be any different for him? Of course, it wasn’t. It just took him a little longer this time around.

Well, without a word, he decided today was the day. He got in the water, bobbed for a second, and took off swimming. It looked almost effortless as he kicked and moved through the water. It looked as though he’d been doing this for years. But it wasn’t without effort at all.

This kid, like his mom, is a watcher. We watch, study, until we’re ready to jump in with both feet and take off with a splash. Even knowing this about him, about me, it has sometimes been difficult to just let the flower bloom the way flowers do, with gentle care and loving patience. And he did in fact, yet again, bloom! And as always, he did it in his own sweet time.

Ginger Carlson is an educator, speaker, and author of the award-winning book Child of Wonder: Nurturing Creative and Naturally Curious Children. Visit her online at http://gingercarlson.com.

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