The Joy of (re)Discovery

A couple of posts ago I described how being a parent sometimes makes you feel like your IQ shrinks with each lost hour of sleep. But sometimes the reverse is also true. As my kids get older and more curious, I find I’m picking up all sorts of fascinating information.

For example, I was standing with a couple of colleagues at an outdoor party on  Saturday night and we were staring up at the night sky. It was dusk, and there were only a couple of stars out. They were trying to figure out what the brightest star was called.

“Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s Venus,” I said. “It’s one of the brightest objects in the evening sky.”

They both stared at me, so I felt compelled to clarify. “I only know that because I read it in a picture book with my five-year-old.”

This is one of my favourite perks of being a parent right now. Xander in particular is at that age where he’s curious about everything. He raids the junior non-fiction section at the library – books on the body, ancient Egypt, dinosaurs, skyscrapers, you name it. He loves watching episodes of How it’s Made and Popular Mechanics for Kids.

(Side note: this is also one of the things I love about parenting in the 21st century: the Internet is like one giant multimedia encyclopedia. One day Xander asked how marbles are made, and two minutes later we were checking it out on YouTube.)

As he’s learning all this stuff, I’m learning—and re-learning—plenty as well. Half the time when we leaf through a book, Xander eventually gets up and moves on and I sit there discovering all sorts of wonderful and disgusting facts. On our last library visit Xander found this gem, which taught me that lobsters have their bladders in their heads and try to pee in each other’s faces when they fight.

I love watching  my kids engage the world. This probably sounds corny and cliched, but I  like seeing things through their eyes–everything is fresh and exciting again. Some of it is nostalgia: as Xander dives into his dinosaur phase (pretty much every boy has one), I flip through his books and remember that ankylosaurus was by far my favourite dino as a kid.

A homemade dinosaur habitat.

Or I watch him get all obsessed with Super Mario and recall the time I made it all the way to Bowser’s castle in Super Mario 3 one morning, pressed pause to run to the bus stop, and spent the whole  school day worrying that Mom would turn my Nintendo off before I got home. (She didn’t, God bless her, and I beat Bowser for the first time that afternoon.)

There’s also the sheer joy of undiscovered territory, of not knowing what’s going to happen. The boys love doing messy experiments and weird science potions. (We usually do this when Shawna’s not home.) We start with the classic vinegar-and-baking-soda combo to build a good fizz, and add food colouring, cooking oil, you name it. Once we tossed in some tabasco sauce and liquid smoke and came up with a fluorescent, fizzy, gloriously repugnant-smelling concoction that will forever be known in Lucas folklore as “Pink Stink.”

These days, this is the recipe for many of our adventures. We just follow the lead of our curious, imaginative kids and see where it takes us.

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