Cripes. I never saw that one coming.
The kids spent a lovely day at their grandma's house, and she was happy to indulge their newest hobby, rock hunting. They love to choose a special rock whenever we find ourselves out and about. Sometimes, J will pick one up and just carry it with him. Or he might stop to examine it with all his senses, rubbing it, smelling it, and often, licking it. (What better way to truly know a rock, after all?) L often sits down where she is, and scans the area for a special rock. When she finds it, and she always does, she crams it (or, more likely, them) into her pocket (or mine) and it comes home with us. Some rock hunting trips are only limited by our ability to bring the rocks home.
I totally understand this. I've been doing it all my life. I love rocks. I've taken geology three times in college and once again during my Master's program. I cried the first time I saw the Grand Canyon. I felt so still and safe there, among the quiet and ancient rocks. There are rocks that make me feel a little bit sad, almost wistful, like the ones along Lake Superior's shoreline. There are rocks that make me feel a little scared, like the jagged basalt in the Boundary Waters. The white sandstone chunk that I picked up in Southern California makes me feel a little giddy and silly. I have no idea why. Sometimes, rocks can just call out to a person. I just sometimes feel as if I 'connect' to certain rocks. Does this happen to you? If my kids are starting to feel this way, hey, who am I to stop them?
Then again, they might just like the diversity of shapes, colors, textures, and sizes. Which, of course, is equally valid.
Remember the treasure boxes we made? L's is now almost exclusively dedicated to rocks. We've sorted our rocks, organized them (I like to let the kids decide on the categories we use) and traced them on paper. We've done crayon rubbings of their textures. We've painted with rocks, using them as "brushes." We've glued rocks to paper and played hide-and-seek with rocks. (note: this game works best inside) Our rocks are game pieces, money, and characters in dramatic stories that unfold on rainy days. Our rocks take sun baths in the windowsills and we wash them in the tub.
Once, we were on a nature walk and she had an especially precious rock that she'd connected with. She'd been carrying it for about an hour, when she exuberantly took off down the trail....and tripped. The rock went flying. Of course, she was in tears by the time I caught up to her, and she wanted her rock back. I hadn't actually examined the rock, so I didn't even know what I was looking for. The best I could get from her in terms of details were "it's whitish, and it looks sort of like a heart." I searched off and on the trail for a good 20 minutes, every so often picking up what I thought was "her" rock....only to be told sadly, "that isn't my rock."
Leaving the Peace Garden that day was tough. We went home with only J's rock. (Which was lovely, by the way. My geologist neighbor could tell you more about it. I can only tell you it was black and smooth.) Every so often L picks up a rock where we are, and looks it over, and says, "Mama, do you think this might be that rock that I lost at the Peace Garden?" Then, as quickly as she asks, she realizes that no, it isn't. This is sad, people.
But, I digress.
Today, the kids left Grandma's house with a few special rocks of their choosing. J, as usual, had chosen just one special rock. He cradled it in his blankey during the car ride home. L couldn't settle on just one rock, so she held a ziploc bag with 7 beauties in it. We were driving home, playing with the windows, commenting on cars, buildings, and whatever else we could come up with to entertain ourselves during the drive...when suddenly, I heard a weird noise and J was screaming. Screaming.
I yanked the car off the highway onto a side street at about 50 miles an hour so I could check to see if his face was OK, trying to remain calm. "HONEY!" I yelled. "We never, never, never hit someone in the face with a bag of rocks!" (The things you find yourself saying when you have kids....
He's fine, of course. No blood, no broken teeth. But lots of crying, lots of screaming. L was immediately sorry she hit him, and said over and over, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I am sorry I hurt you, J"
When I think about the "hazards of nature" that keep people from letting their kids play outdoors, injuries are certainly among them. It has long been identified as one of the main barriers that some parents face. But I don't think this is what is forefront at people's minds. Except, of course, J's.
Incidentally, here's a place to check out some research related to "risk" involved in playing outdoors. Interesting stuff.