Photo taken by Jon Harper
Soaked from head to toe.
Pants falling down.
Arms outstretched as if he is waiting for Achilles himself.
Daring the next wave to come in.
My wife and I were bundled up in several layers. But not my little warrior. It mattered not that the wind chill temperature was 50 degrees and the water too cold for the rest of the beach to consider. The word consider was not in his vocabulary today. It was simply do.
My daughter and her friends gallavanted along the beach collecting seashells and from time to time dipped their feet in the ocean. Not him. The ocean. The water. The waves were his arch rival. And he was not to be defeated today.
At one point he even sat down. Letting the waves come to him.
All the while I was thinking he must be out of his mind.
It was cold!
The sole purpose of this trip to the beach was to collect shells and sand and rocks that the kids could later put them into a nice neat jar.
He broke his on the elevator trip down.
Apparently that didn’t matter. Once his toes hit the sand he went straight for the chilly waters. He was not there to collect. He was there to experience. To live. He wanted to, as Thoreau wrote, “suck the marrow out of life.” And that he did. So much so that he almost left the beach as he entered this world. Naked and wet.
It was truly amazing to watch.
Photo taken by Bridget Harper
We had gone to the pier to catch crabs. Up until this night, our personal record was eight. Not too bad for just using chicken necks, some string and a net. But on this night we broke our record. We managed to catch nine! On previous occasions my daughter was my apprentice. But not on this night. We had brought a friend and my daughter was content to just lean up against the pylon and read her book.
She let him take over her role. In fact, she was more interested in reading her book than she was in catching crabs. I was fine with it because it was a beautiful night and she was completely and totally engrossed in the book she was reading. Coincidentally, she was reading the abridged version of Moby Dick.
Once again, what I thought was a perfectly planned event for my child turned out to be less interesting than what they decided upon. And I think that that is awesome!
Here I was trying to entice my daughter to catch 6-inch blue crabs whilst she was toiling alongside Captain Ahab in his quest to capture the illusive Moby Dick.
Too often I think we devise our master plans while looking through our own lens. Many times we are successful, or at least we think that we are. But how do we know? Do we ever stop to ask our children and/or our students if they have a better idea or a different plan?
Maybe it’s time we start. Who knows better than they do what they want. Sometimes if we just sit back and watch. As they create. As they decide. As they adapt. We find that they are able to determine exactly what they need.
And really, isn’t that what we spend our days and nights trying to figure out anyway?
“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach is what life is all about.”