Hello black beetle, meet my curious (and fearless) 2-year-old, and his not so fearless (yet curious) mom

I don’t know many people who don’t have at least one thing they fear (spiders, heights, the loss of a loved one, poverty), where that fear paralyzes their capacity to be curious about something. Sometimes I think I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be fearless, leave caution in my pocket and just step out on faith or on foolishness. Our random thoughts usually fall somewhere gently between one of the two don’t they?

Sure I take a few risks here and there, but nothing like the fearlessness I see in children. I’ve long since forgotten what it feels like to just be fearless, to act on my curiosity, or on impulse. As adults impulses can often get us in trouble (we just can’t go on a shopping spree in the middle of the workday or curse out the rude people in our lives), so we’ve learned to control most of those thoughts and impulses, be a little more responsible (sometimes). We’ve learned to live within our means, within our boundaries, and sometimes we’re driven to live within our fears.

Interestingly, I don’t see that in children—not at first. Their young curious minds are open and spontaneous. And while that impulsiveness, as children grow, may become more tuned or refined, when they are young, that sense of free is wondrous and imaginative. I watch with joy and awe as my boys walk in their curiosity and answer their own questions by living in the moment, taking their time to look, listen, and ask questions with their eyes, their hands, their hearts.

The other day Rafael saw a huge black beetle with a sharp snapping claw-like head. The bug was finding its way through the blades of grass, minding its own business. “Hi bug,” my 2-year-old said innocently, as he leaned down to pet him with his tiny index finger. I cringed, as the moment seemed to play out in slow motion. “Hi bug,” he repeated. I watched, trying not to project my anxiety, my fear on him. He looked over to me as if looking for permission to make friends with the bug. I couldn’t give him any guidance; it was as if I was stuck in that moment not knowing exactly what to do next. Part of me wanted to tell him leave the bug alone he might bite you or leave the bug alone because he’s big and gross.

But neither of those things came out of my mouth. I just watched him as he leaned in closer and picked up the bug between his index and thumb. I could barely look. The bug struggled as he fell from my son’s fingers and landed on his back, his sharp little legs flailing in all directions as it tried to regain its balance. It took all I had to not say anything. It took all I had to keep watching. But somehow I wanted Rafael to come to his own conclusion, work this out himself. It was hard to do: I tried not to show my nervousness, I tried to remain calm; I really just wanted him to just leave that bug alone. He tried to pick the bug up again and realized that the bug wanted nothing to do with him. And in that moment Rafael decided to leave him alone.

However since that day, as we’ve walked past that patch of grass, I’ve noticed Rafael looking for that beetle, wondering where is tiny friend could be hiding. I’ve watched him search the grass, bending over to look closer until he finally walks away just a little bit disappointed. We’ve yet to see that beetle again, but somehow that moment taught Rafael and I both something. We were both curious that day—just curious enough to let the moment play out exactly the way it was supposed to, and just fearless enough to be a little bit curious.

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Categories: Misc.

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