03 Aug On Curiosity

Last week, when told to wash his hands, my three-year-old son instead “washed” five brand-new rolls of toilet paper—“just to see what would happen.” What happened is that we—his parents—spent the next half hour scooping the rapidly disintegrating shreds of tissue from the sink drain while delivering a stern lecture about the appropriate use of household goods.

“I’m sorry I did that,” Roo said, his small voice full of regret. “I was just doing a ‘speriment.”

Like all parents, we want our child to be a curious, open-minded student of the world. And, like all parents, we have often found ourselves dismayed to discover that he is, indeed, exactly that.

One of the hard truths of this parenting work is that while we hold the IDEA of curiosity—of wondering and experimenting and learning-by-doing—in high regard, we find the PRACTICE of curiosity, at least as performed by our young children in their daily lives, to be a course in exasperation.

Curiosity, in practice, can look a lot like mess-and-mischief making. It can look like blunt, uncensored observations about other people’s body type or skin color. It can look like question after question after embarrassing, uncomfortable, irritating question.

It’s all too easy to mistake a child’s normal, age-appropriate curious behavior for intentional MISbehavior. It’s easy, in our desire to teach boundaries and respect, to reflexively shut down their questioning and experimentation—to spend whole days at a time saying “no” and “don’t touch that” and “please don’t be rude.” It’s easy to send the message—however unintentionally—-that’s it’s wrong for our children to explore the world in the ways that come most naturally to them.

But we can also take care to send a different message: we can show our children that it’s by curiosity we grow. We can show them that by nourishing a deep and sincere interest in why things are the way they are, we can make change and solve problems and help others. We can show them that to wonder and play is to engage in a spiritual practice.

This month at Think Sacred, we’re exploring the theme of CURIOSITY. In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting a series of resources to help you and your family create together, ask and answer questions, and encourage each other’s desire to learn how things work, why things happen, and what to think about it all.

These resources will include:

Playlists (books and music to help you explore the theme with your children any time)

A spiritual practice of the month, designed for families to do together regularly

A parenting practice of the month, to encourage you to engage with your children in a new and different way

A Q&A post on a parenting challenge related to the theme

In addition, I’ll be posting regular blessings, meditations and short essays on the theme at the Think Sacred Facebook page.

Be well, and thanks for joining us this month!

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