When a child is around, my mind becomes a little more attentive. I love to watch children, their families, and the Natural Learning situations that are visible to me.
One afternoon while having lunch at my favorite local cafe, I was observing a toddler and her mother. She was toddling about and her mother was following closely behind. My dog Deva was with me at my side, and knowing that some children are afraid or unsure of dogs, I kept her close.
When the little girl noticed and approached Deva, she didn’t appear afraid. She was gleeful and curious. Her mother bent down ahead of her and offered her own hand to Deva to sniff, then patted her on the head. The little girl then did the same. And then she sat down, looking at Deva for a bit. She reached her hand out, again, for the dog to sniff and then patted her on the head.
This lasted all of 5 minutes and then she was off toddling again, ready to discover the next curiosity. It was a short, sweet and subtle event between a child and a dog.
From the Visible to the Invisible
What was visible to me was how much love and confidence the little girl’s mother had. She watched her child adoringly and was attentive. She appeared confident in her ability to handle the situation. She seemed to trust me, and didn’t appear to distrust dogs. I assured her, just in case, that Deva loved children (“Just watch for that tongue,” I said. “She may try to lick!”).
What might be invisible then? It was just a sweet moment. Why does there need to be anything more?
Because big possibilities spring from seemingly unimportant, short or little experiences.
What the little girl’s mother seemed to know, at least intuitively, was that her daughter was taking cues from her. When Claudia noticed her mother holding out her hand for Deva to “sniff”, she didn’t miss a beat. She, in turn, reached her own hand out. And according to research on Mirror Neurons, she wasn’t just mimicking her mother’s gestures, she was probably also been mirroring her mother’s attitude about dogs and the vocabulary her mother was using. (It was clear in her facial expressions, body movements and willingness to move into the experience that the mother wasn’t afraid of or disinterested in Deva).
Through the little girl’s senses and in combination with all the mysterious goings-on in her body, her brain was looking for similarities between this experience and others, incorporating this experience into a “map” that she had been building in her brain. She was getting a clearer picture of “dog”; what they might do around her, what they smell like, feel like, and sound like. I’m guessing, based on her actions, that her experiences with dogs had been positive so far.
Next time she meets a dog, she will unconsciously incorporate this experience with the new experience. Her understanding or knowledge about dogs will have grown a little more. Maybe someday she will ask to have a dog. That step will give her opportunities to understand a dog more intimately. She might “learn” cues from the dog that tell her they need food or need to be taken out, when and how to feed them, bath them, walk them on a lead, or maybe train them. And later in life she may take the knowledge from the ever-growing compendium of experiences (maps), along with others that she has built in her brain/mind, and begin to offer her services as a dog-sitter, later a dog groomer, trainer, or quite possibly an animal doctor. The possibilities are limitless.
But they began with one subtle and seemingly unimportant experience.
Do you recall a small experience in your life that eventually had a larger impact on your life? If so, please share it in the comments below.
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