I’ve been mulling over how Arthur and I spend our days rather a lot lately. He’s coming up for three, and I am still almost solely responsible for his childcare. Generally I’m happy with this – I know there will be benefits he is getting from me that just aren’t accessible anywhere else – but still, sometimes I worry. Most of his friends are in nursery, and their parents naturally extol the benefits of that. Sometimes I worry that I’m just not fun enough, creative enough, hands on enough to have taken on this level of responsibility for my son’s education.
Then I have days like the one we enjoyed on Thursday. We got up, we hung out and played for a while, Arthur napped and I wrote. And then we had lunch. And then we went exploring.
And I saw Arthur’s learning, his development, in every step he took. He’d been zooming his balance bike around the kitchen for a few days already, showing a confidence that had been lacking in months of experimentation. He was more reticent, out in the big wide world, but still he wanted to ride, pacing around the headland with barely concealed glee.
He did get tired, eventually. But then his bravery transferred to another sphere.
All summer, we have talked to him about berries: the ones he can eat, and the ones he can’t; the ones we’ve grown in our garden, and the ones that flourish freely on the hedgerows. It is those that have been most significant over the last month or so: the inky blackberries that in my mind form the perfect snack yet for Arthur have been a concept just too unfamiliar to get his head around.
Until this week. When suddenly he wanted to try this delicious wild fruit, and having succumbed to its sweetness stood and gorged himself until his fingers and mouth were stained with black.
Both of these things, the bike riding and the blackberry picking, represent huge steps of freedom for my little boy. I am proud of his bravery, of his confidence. But I am scared too, just a little. Because picking wild berries brings with it the danger of choosing the wrong ones, and lifting your feet from the floor when riding a bike means that you will one day surely fall.
But then these are precisely the sorts of risks that I need to be prepared to take if I am going to take on the challenge of educating my child myself.
He is still very young, but his curiosity is beginning to lead us to amazing places.