Treasure this - FamilyEducation

Treasure this

September 26,2008
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

Remember how my T. likes to pitter-patter into our room at night and climb into bed with us? Well, for the past three nights she hasn't done this. She's stayed in her own room, curled into her pink sheets, her favorite stuffed dog, Lucky, clutched in her arms. I know this seems like a strange milestone to most of you, who probably have had kids sleeping through the night since they were tiny babies. But for us, this is big. We're a flexible (creative? lax? attachment-parenting?) sleeping family and, aside from the one painful night T. spent in the metal crib in the PICU when she was six months old, she has always ended up in our bed at some point in the night, just as L. used to do.

I'm decidedly ambivalent about this new development. I wake up in the morning with a sense that someone is missing. The bed seems emptier, the spot where she usually nestles between us seems wider than the bed itself. Scott is struggling with this as well. At breakfast one morning, he started to say something to T. about how he wanted her to stay little; that he'd have to start tiptoeing into her room at night to hug her to make up for her bigness now. I elbowed him and shot him a glance: don't make her feel bad, my look said. But I so understand what he meant. I have a lump in my throat these days, thinking about T. growing up; about the symbolic meaning behind her staying all night in her own bed.

Milestones are hard. Kids don't prepare you for them, even though, as parents, we know they are coming. Your child doesn't take you aside one day and tell you, "Hey, Mom, look sharp--I'm going to start walking tomorrow." They don't gently whisper in your ear at night, "I love you, Mama, but I'm getting too old for this. Prepare yourself." Maybe the passage of these milestones would seem a little less painful, somehow, with that advance warning--the ample preparation time to steel out hearts and souls for the inevitable growing up and moving on.

Maybe this is just a fluke, this sleeping-in-her-own-bed business. Maybe tomorrow night I'll wake briefly and feel her clutch her little arms around my neck. Maybe I'll wake up in the morning and see her curled up against my back, the way she used to lie in those early, sweet baby days--the ones that suddenly seem so long ago. But I do know that one day this milestone will be passed for good; if not now, then another day.

Maybe we'll be ready. Maybe.

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How was your Take Your Child Outside Week? Ours ended with lots of rain and wind. T. and I did manage to collect leaves and acorns to make Leaf Fairies, but L., alas, wanted nothing to do with that. He did spend a lot of time on our screened-in porch yesterday afternoon, doing a lot of jumping--I think that sort of qualifies--just barely.

Making Leaf Fairies is simple. You can also make Leaf Men or Leaf Women, or Leaf Dogs or Leaf Cars--the options are endless. The fun part is taking your kids out to collect the materials. Give them a plastic bag, a basket, or a paper bag, and head out into the great outdoors to find leaves, acorns, twisted twigs, or anything really that looks like it could be used creatively. The only rules are that it has to come from nature, and you can't remove it from a living thing.

Then, dump the contents out on the table (on some newspaper, preferably) like this:

 


Let your child design parts of the body with crayons or colored pencils, then use the leaves or twigs or acorns to form other parts of the body. The key is letting them use their imaginations to come up with ideas about how to use the treasures they collected.T. made three Leaf Fairies and one Leaf Butterfly. Her butterfly looked like this:

(I drew the face--T. was worried about her precision drawing skills.)

This is a great activity to celebrate fall, and being outside, and the creative powers of a child's imagination--that imagination that turns leaves into gossamer wings, and an acorn into the finest of hats.