Little kids seem so much more receptive to the little changes. Sometimes this can be trying, such as when I use the –gasp!– wrong cup for Eleanor’s milk, or layer on Jeffrey’s blankets in the incorrect order at bedtime. (For the record, it is: cow blanket, polka-dot blanket, and then the blue pinwheel patchwork quilt. Which he then promptly kicks off as soon as I leave the room.)
But there are other times that my kids pick up on the best details in life. There’s a passage in Louisa May Alcott’s Eight Cousins in which young Rose walks into her bedroom and immediately notices how the sunset is coloring the room, “with a child’s quick instinct.” That quick instinct — that uninhibited reaction to nature — is something I love in kids, especially when it helps me experience seasonal changes, like this burgeoning spring, through their eyes. (Oh, that old cliché. But it’s true.)
The wind is blowing briskly, and Jeffrey wants to go outside. “I like to play in the breeze,” he says. “Because it keeps me fresh.” He is always wanting to report on the weather at his preschool. “I felt a breeze today, Megan,” he reports proudly. “It must sign up for the weather report and say that it’s windy!”
Our first few flowering bulbs have come up, and our kids are enraptured with them, shining out like rainbow-colored coins scattered in our grey backyard. Poor little blossoms — they don’t stand a chance against my kids’ chubby fingers. Jeffrey made short work of the crocus, while Eleanor is slowly plucking the hyacinths apart. The realities of wilted flowers are hard, however. “Mommy, my flowers are melting,” says Eleanor sadly, tumbling a wrinkly, rubbery pink nub into my hand. “The flower melted, Mommy!”
A few mornings ago Jeffrey was quietly staring out the window over his breakfast bagel, his hand softly cupping his cheek. “Mommy, why is it pink all over?” I asked him what he saw outside that was pink, and he wrinkled his brow in thought. “Everything. Everything is pink,” he said, sweeping his hand across the window in a grand, yet vague, gesture. I looked, and it was all grey to me, but after gazing for moment, I could see it — how the sunlight slanted across the tips of the trees foresting the hillside, and if you didn’t look too closely at one in particular, you could see streaks of pink, like a gauze hung over the spindly, bare branches. It was the budding leaves, the raw pink tone they have just before bursting, the color of baby’s tongue. Birthing is hard, renewal is hard, the struggle to produce something new and gorgeous out of what essentially seems like a bunch of sticks in the mud. I love that Jeffrey can see it, this secret way of looking that he can show me, that we can share.
One of my favorite springtime books:
Rabbit’s Good News by Ruth Bornstein — There’s a big ol’ rainbow of pastels at work in these illustrations, although they aren’t showy by any account. Little rabbit uses all of his senses, from sniffing the air to listening for birdsong, to see if spring has really arrived. Then he bounds out of his den to share the news. Little kids enjoy the simplicity of this tale, and like being able to match up Rabbit’s senses with his body parts (“he hears with his . . . EARS!”). Sweet ‘n’ simple.