I remember reading somewhere that if a child hands me a rock, I should cherish it. Since I saw it on the Internet, it had to be true. Therefore, when I die, my children are going to find rocks, drawings, buttons, atrocious…ly beautiful hand-made jewelry, barely legible notes, toenails, and the occasional dried scab taped to a small piece of paper with a story. They’ll find these things tucked randomly away; and they’ll look at each other with knowing grins, shrug their shoulders, and wonder, “What the hell was WRONG with Mom?” Many things, kids…many many things – but I tell you this:
I’ve been teaching preschool for nearly a month; and one thing I observe almost daily is three and four-year-old children finding treasures. A rock, a particular colored leaf, a piece of kale with caterpillar bites taken out of it – as if they’ve found the rarest, most precious, never-before-seen item on the planet, they protect these items. It always starts out with an incredulous proclamation of discovery followed by a breathless, “I’ve gotta show this to Mommy/Daddy!”, followed by fierce protection of discovered item. NOTE: fierce protection indicates the child will have the meltdown from hell if that item is touched, misplaced, or in danger of either of the above. In other words, everyone on the playground/nature walk must SEE the item, yet nobody had better TOUCH the item…or breath on it, point at it, or look at it longer than invited to. The child will typically carry the item until it is determined the item is in imminent risk of loss or damage (a.k.a. the child cannot simultaneously swing and hold onto a rock). At this critical time, it is demanded a teacher put the item into her pocket (a.k.a. guarding the item as the Honor Guard do the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier). As long as that item is in the teacher’s possession, she should expect to be interrogated every 15 seconds to ensure the item is still as safe as it was 15 seconds prior. Once the item is returned to the child, she will inevitably insist she be allowed to keep the item within site to ensure safety for the remainder of the school day. Time and again the teacher will tell the child that the item must remain in her cubby until Mommy/Daddy arrive. Child will LOSE.HER.SHIT. Item will stay in cubby despite multiple attempts by child to smuggle it out like a Mexican drug lord.
Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, caregivers, guardians, PLEASE! When a child hands you a gift (and to her it truly is a gift), know that this item is extremely important to her, that she’s obsessed about it all day, worked hard to protect it, she’s thought of you, she’s reminded her teacher 100 times how much you’re going to love it! Don’t let her down. Act surprised. Be impressed. Get as excited to receive it as she is to give it. Wrap your arms around her, smother her with kisses, thank her, and tuck that little treasure into a very important spot. Keep it forever so that some day when you’re gone, she will find it and realize how very very much you loved her.