I was reminded the other day of the value of spending time outdoors with my girls even when I don't have any particular ideas for activities with them.
For a number of reasons, our poor backyard has been looking like a jungle lately- lots of prickly weeds have been springing up here and there. My husband has a lot on his plate right now; so one morning, I decided to go back there with a screwdriver and try to get rid of some of the weeds. M wandered around the yard while I worked.
After I had been working about 20 minutes I saw that one of the weeds had a snail shell on it. I called M over to show her the live, slimy snail living inside. She was transfixed. I gave him to her to carry around, and she watched over him like he was a babydoll.
As I worked, I found more and more snails of various sizes, and at each, M was delighted, calling them mommies, daddies, or babies depending on their sizes. She set them on the patio, and pretty soon they oozed out of their shells enough to slide slowly along.
There were so many moments of childlike wonder that I couldn't have planned if I had tried.
Much of the time, it is easy for me to slip into an attitude of instant gratification with my children. If something doesn't seem interesting or fun to them in the first five minutes of trying it, I often abandon the effort. Adopting that attitude with nature doesn't work very well though. One can't expect the outdoors to show its little glories on demand. The snail surprise reminded me of the importance of being content to while away empty, unexciting time outdoors for the sake of the wonderful serendipity of spotting a red- headed woodpecker one day or a spider spinning a web the next.