First Impressions

A Story of Letting Children Create Their Own First Impressions

      story and pictures by Monika (mother)

“You’ll love it, its so great, just wait and see”. I say this and similar things all the time, making known my expectations of the reaction my children have to something new or unknown. My intent is to reassure them, but for the first time this summer I became conscious that I was doing more than that. Still I found myself saying this as school was starting, and again as we made the switch from Allco to MKRF. Yesterday our Parent Learning Dialogue on emergent learning made me think of it again. Here is the story.

This summer we took our family on a week long backcountry beach camping trip in Cape Scott provincial park. Its a very long journey to get there, and the month before was filled with prepping to ensure that we had enough food and the correct gear to keep us safe and comfortable for the duration.

On that particular trail on that particular day I was feeling rushed. I just wanted to get to camp and set up. The weather was awesome. I was annoyed at the frequent stops by the kids. Its an easy trail. My kids are seasoned mini backpackers. We had been driving for hours. Lets. Just. Get. There. Already.

I started trying to encourage and motivate them by talking about the awesome sights that awaited them once we were got there, as I often do. But soon I realized that I was taking away from their own experiences. On this trail the old forest is breathtaking. The remains of an old settlement are enough to stimulate even the most stubborn imagination. And by telling them what I thought was so great about the beach destination was I tainting their first impression with my own anticipation? I was able to stop myself and focus our attention on the trees, the bird song, the river, and the experience in the present.

Finally we arrived. The transition from old dense forest to open deserted beach was sudden. Their wonder was pure and simple. Kieran dropped to his knees to feel the sand and stayed there for a long time. Maija was simply in awe. Her own awe, not mine.

The more I think about this, the more I understand how much my words and expectations control their learning and their emerging worldview. I need to tread consciously. To trust that their own true experience matters more than the one I constructed for them, even if what they focus on is very different from what I expected. To be the co-inquirer instead of the pilot.