Boy Plus Lizard – Lessons in Protection and Freedom

We’ve actually had a bit of rain here lately, in this summer drought.  A couple days ago, it started to sprinkle and Jax asked me to play outside with him.  We’ve been playing inside the last couple months, because 85 degrees plus is just too much, for any length of time, being pregnant.  The rain had cooled it down to about 76 outside, and the sprinkles felt refreshing.  Within five minutes however, it was pouring.  I grabbed rain jackets for both of us, so we would be wet but not soaked to the bone.  The we played while the rain poured down over us.
When I spotted this little lizard, I figured he would run off at lightening speed like they usually do. But at some point I realized he was moving slowly and wondered if it was all the rain slowing him down.  I tried to pick him up, and he barely resisted.
And that is how Jax got to play with his first lizard.  He was so good at being gentle and not squishing, and the lizard was extremely docile and cooperative.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then…. he took the lizard for a ride.

 

 

We put him in a jar with a couple ants, some grass, and mud.  We left him there overnight, outside in the jar, while I tried to figure out what we would do with him. I wouldn’t mind a lizard pet, but was unsure about feeding and maintaining it properly.

A few times I suggested we release him into the grass, and Jax said, “But I want to pway wif him! I want him to be my fwend!”  So we kept lizard friend overnight, and the next morning, went outside and let him go.

I told Jax the lizard missed his Mommy and Daddy, and we needed to put him back in the grass so he could run away to go find them.  He decided this was acceptable, held the lizard a bit longer, then tossed him into the grass to find his freedom.  The lizard, now dry, and nervous after being stuck in a glass cage all night, scampered away as quick as anything, and Jax said goodbye…..

These adventures are some of the ones that bring me a breath of life as a Mommy.  I love the outdoors, discovering, exploring, as much as Jax does.  I love these little adventures that I think all kids should get to enjoy, if they choose to.

Although I want my kids to be safe, I also don’t want to over-protect them right out of enjoying God’s creation.  I have always been pretty relaxed when Jax plays outside. He’s eaten dirt, leaves, and licked plenty of rocks.  The only thing that’s made him truly sick is other sick children, so I’m just not that worried about bugs and dirt.

Sometimes when we are at the park or other places, I feel like some parents tell their kids “no” at every possible junction…. don’t touch that stick.  Don’t jump off that rock.  Don’t climb that bench.

I want my children to learn to respect nature, to learn to respect other people, and items that are not meant for childlike-destruction.  We definitely parent with those boundaries.

But if we are at the tire shop waiting for new tires to be put on the car, and he wants to run up and down outside, in an area safe from cars, I’m going to let him run.  If we are at a swimming pool, he doesn’t get to run around the pool area.

If he wants to climb on rocks and jump off, and I think he’s too little to do it safely, I will hold his hand or help him.  If I think he might fall but is unlikely to break any bones, there’s a good chance I will let him try.

If he wants to grab a stick, I will make sure he isn’t swinging it at humans. But he is allowed to bang it on the ground. He is allowed to break it.  He is allowed to poke at a bug with it.

I’m willing to risk him getting mildly hurt, in the interest of allowing him to discover the world.  Certainly when his life is in danger, or broken bones seem imminent, these activities are off limit.  And if the activity is questionable, I try to do it with him or helping him, so he can still discover it, while remaining a bit safer.

My mom told me when I was a little girl, that someone once told her some parenting advice….. If you can say “yes”, say it.

Obviously there are people that are permissive to the point of neglect, and that’s not what we’re talking about here.

For me, this means when my twelve month-old wants to climb on the merry go round, I keep him safe by making sure there aren’t any big kids spinning it frantically, but I say yes by letting him crawl across it. Even if he could possibly crawl off one edge.  There’s a good chance he won’t.  And if he gets too close, I’m fast enough to run and catch him, and I’m doing my best to keep close in the event he does.  But I don’t keep him off the merry go round altogether….

I was more worried with this lizard, that Jax would squish it and kill it, which would just be sad.  I think I told him to be gentle about a thousand times.  Each time he reminded me that he WAS being gentle, and he was doing a good job too.  I took the risk of the mess of cleaning up a squished lizard, so Jax could enjoy the creature and learn a lesson in gentle touch.

I was also worried he would get attached to it, and by crying when it was time to let it go.  I debated how long we would keep it, and in what manner we would keep it (indoor / outdoor), how and when I was going to explain it was time for the lizard to go home… when Jax would need to say goodbye to the creature he decided to call, “Friend.”

But he was fine with that too.  We kept him overnight by mistake really, and the next morning, Jax was ready to release him, without any tears.

This is one of the ways in which parenting is a journey of discovery for the parent, just as much as the child….. How do we keep them safe?  And how do we set them free?  How do we protect them from serious pain, because we love them so much?  Yet how do we also love them enough, to allow them “safe failures” so they can learn their own limits and discover how to manage the world on their own, little by little, in age-appropriate ways and times.

When and how do we hold them close… When and how do we let go….

And we try to balance protection with freedom, holding tight with letting go, along the journey of two years old and ten years old and sixteen years old, so they hopefully learn how to make wise choices when they aren’t under our thumb or in our presence.

I don’t have this thing all figured out!  But these are some of the values and thoughts I wrestle with… try to discover…. and slowly learn how to implement in the very delightful lesson of the lizard.

Nana Rose and the Zoo

This summer, Benjamin’s mom, Rose, visited us, especially to spend time with her grandson.  It’s the second time she’s been out to Texas since his birth.  The first time, he was just six weeks old.  Suffice to say that he has changed a lot since then!  We also visited Benjamin’s family this Christmas, so almost everyone on his side got to meet Jax.

If I had been deciding on a husband without ever meeting him, making my decision solely on how fabulous his mother was, I couldn’t have it better than I do with Rose as my mother-in-law.  She loves Jesus, she bubbles with joy, she adores me and Jax (well, who wouldn’t hehe), and we have great conversations about everything from cooking to natural health to faith.

I have been thrilled each time she has come out to spend a week with us.  We’re still getting along splendidly by the end of the week and are eager to have her back anytime (as anyone who has relatives can attest, the same cannot be said for many family members when you live in the same home with them for a few days, wither immediate family or extended!).

She taught Jax the sweetest little ditty, “Thank you Jesus for _____ and ______, Thank you Jesus for Jax!”  The fill-in-the-blanks might be any random thing we were enjoying at the moment, like the sun, Mommy, food, etc.  He would laugh EVERY time when she finished singing it.  Perhaps it was hearing his name in song, perhaps it was her joyful giggle when she would sing, but he loved it.  Periodically I remember to sing it to him, and he still loves it.

The San Antonio Zoo has this hysterical underwater aquarium exhibit where you walk in admiring this massive wall of colorful fish against a rocky background.  Then after a few minutes, your brain says, Hey those rocks have tails!  Hey! I’m looking at hippo butts!  And chuckles erupt around the room.

I’m unsure why Jax likes alligator/crocodiles so much.  Perhaps it is the little game I’ve played with him making a chomping sound with my mouth while opening and closing my hands like a crocodile mouth, tickling parts of his body when my hand “chomps” down on him.  He calls it “a-gih-day-dor.”

Just a really wacky looking bird.  God is so creative, and clearly has a sense of humor.

These giant birds (cranes perhaps?) were standing up high and one held his wings over everything like he was supervising or preparing to pass a judgement.

One of Jax’s words that sounds French, “eh-too-want.”  The other is trampoline, “eh-too-een.”

I didn’t get a photo, but there was a tiny baby monkey hanging onto a mama monkey in one of the monkey exhibits.  The next time we went to the zoo, it was a bit bigger, but the daddy monkey was break dancing for about fifteen minutes.  I wish I had taken a video, but I was afraid my phone might frighten him away.  He was leaping and rolling and seriously looked like he was break dancing.  It was unbelievably hysterical.

On a subsequent trip to the zoo, the mama tiger spent fifteen minutes ROARING at her baby tigers.  It seemed that she was trying to get one of them to obey her and follow her to a small landing area, but it was busy playing with a pumpkin, and clearly ignoring her cries.  Once again, comical.  Parent-child troubles occur in nature too.  Ah, such is life.

The zoo has a wonderful little play area for kids with lawn mowers on a grassy slope, and a shallow “river” type area where they can wade or splash in the water.  I could see coming during the summer just to play here with a toddler.  We may get season passes to the zoo this year; Jax loves all the animals so much.

| Filed under animals, stories of my life

Sweet Words


As children are accumulating vocabulary, they say all sorts of interesting, hysterical, embarrassing, and lovely things.

I was afraid to teach Jax words like “shirt” or “truck”, just in case they came out sounding wrong.  (“Shirt” mispronunciation has turned out to be inevitable. I just ignore it. He will learn the correct way to pronounce long before he learns the incorrect way has an alternate meaning. “Truck” has been okay. It is “twuck.”).

I’ve been thoughtful that he will translate words from one scenario to another. Unfortunately, others in my life haven’t had the same forethought.

For example, when he was suddenly afraid of the sound of the airplanes flying over our home (which happens countless times a day in this military city), my Tita taught him to say, “Go away! Go away airplane!” as a defense mechanism.  It worked temporarily, and since he had something forceful to tell the airplane, he seemed slightly less intimidated by them. Sometimes. Other times he still cried for me.  The downside is he naturally started telling people like me and his Daddy to “go away” when we were doing something he didn’t like.  I finally convinced my Tita to stop saying those words around him, because it is so hurtful and ugly for me to be told “go away”, even when I know he is little and can’t comprehend the fullness of meaning.

For a little while, he had started yelling loudly, exciting words he learned from other children, like “NO!” and “MINE!”.  I would respond by yelling loudly, “JESUS!”  Now I periodically hear him across the house or in the car randomly shouting “JESUS!” for no particular reason.

A few things that happened recently that were too sweet to forget….

In the car. He asks for music. I turn on the radio to the Christian station. (Which is the only thing I will listen to now that he started repeating lyrics like “Carry me, carry me” (a current over-played Christian song) or “Speak life, speak life” (another over-played Christian song).)

On this particular day, the song that came on, I recognized, and started singing along.

“Mommy?”
“Yes, Jax, Mommy’s here.”

“Singing?”
“Yes, Mommy’s singing.”

“Mommy singing?”
“Mommy is singing.”

“Jesus.”
(me: teary eyes)
“Yes, Mommy is singing to Jesus.”

(He proceeds to sweetly sing the name of Jesus over and over).
(I melt).

We are in the grocery store. I am wearing him in a wrap on my back. He wraps his arms around my shoulders and says, “Hug.”
“Aww, hug, thank you Jax, I love hugs!”

“I wuv ooh”, clear as a bell, the first time he has ever said it.
(Of all the many, many, many words and phrases he knows, I’ve been wondering why this one has not yet entered his vocabulary, when we say it to him so many times a day.)
“I love you too, Jax!”

“I wuv ooh!” again…
(Then we repeat back and forth several times while I try not to start bawling in the grocery store).

When I put him to bed that night, it is one of the times I always say it to him several times before and after putting him down in his crib. He repeated it again that same day, copying my gentle, sweet tone of voice.

Ah, words a mama loves to hear.

He hasn’t said “I love you” since that day though.

Kind of like our chickens who laid four eggs in October then haven’t laid a single one since.  Dear chickens: by January, your lives will be in danger. Consider my encouragement to begin laying eggs.