“Wok, Mommy! Here ‘go!” says my daughter B as she hands me a beautifully smooth tan rock from the front landscaping of our house. This is, and I’m not exaggerating here, the fiftieth or so toddler-fist-sized rock that has been relocated from the front stoop to the toy bins. My husband John even cautioned that we will have to trek out to Home Depot to get more if her obsession with stones doesn’t cease.
What does she do with them? Her collections defy Machu Pichu with their mystery. She stacks them. Lines them up by size. Piles them by color. Sorts them by texture. And then what does she do? She decorates them with a layer of make up so thick it would make a drag queen blush.
She prefers an old purple and pink palate, gifted by Mommy, and a purple brush, to oh-so-gingerly apply healthy amounts of rouge to each defenseless rock. It is difficult to appreciate the subtly of her work, but I know it is important work, none-the less. B is so proud to show off her accomplishments.
And as her parents, we are proud to receive them.
I wonder, as I gaze at her creations, what skills this self-directed activity will garner for her later in life. Besides the obvious shape/color/texture sorting (pattern recognition) and the painting itself (fine motor skills) there are greater lessons here that are more difficult to quantify.
Perhaps these are baby steps toward a career as an artist, and she will paint great masterpieces for an adoring public. Or maybe she will study to be an archaeologist, spending hot summers brushing away thousands of years of dust to reveal fossilized skeletons of great beasts. Perhaps landscape architecture is in her future, arranging boulders in pleasing patterns to define manicured outdoor spaces.
Or maybe none of these. Maybe she will do something I cannot currently fathom because gazing at her now, wandering our yard in search of more pebbles, all I can do is marvel at her innate curiosity.
And I realize, even at the tender age of two and a quarter, that the most important skill my child has mastered is the ability to explore. With this fundamental tool, B can do and be anything she wishes. It is an immeasurable, un-assessable, yet essential part of education. It is the core of our curriculum.
For now, though to an outsider it may look like an unimportant task, the collection of rocks will surely continue to grow, and there will certainly be more makeup “ruined”. She’s working on something important. And something very special, indeed.