“Can I take some rocks home mom?”
“Sure you can.”
My youngest knows I’d never forbid it, but he still asks.
As you might point out, and accurately so, children often ask permission for the things that have a yes attached to them, yet sometimes skip the asking when it comes to things that parents might say no to. So, we take some rocks home, yet again.
Rock collecting and us, we go a long way back. To me, it is simply a way of remembering a moment and a way to acknowledge beauty in its most raw form. It’s been with me since I was little.
Now the boys do it, too. The first time they did it deliberately was at the beach in Point Roberts. It’s a place of sheer wonder, if you happen to be a rock junkie. I am.
Round rocks, some as small as ladybugs and others as big as a decent-sized squash, are being polished by countless waves to almost perfect roundness, and the sound they make when the lapping waves drag them into and out of the water resembles an army of chattering monkeys.
The boys were seven and three, and engaged in fighting with long rubbery whip-like ribbons of kelp, but they noticed my fascination with the round, colourful pebbles and stopped.
“What are you doing, Mom?”
“Choosing some nice pebbles…”
“Can we have them?”
“Nah, I like them too much. But … you wanna trade, maybe?”
Their eyes sparkled and they got busy. This one for that one? Nope, not good enough. I almost never trade yellow pebbles, unless the offer is spectacular. Speckled would do.
I was serious; I like pebbles and rocks enough to make my boys work harder than just stretching their arms to collect whatever happens to be there and trade.
We spent a good couple of hours doing just that. A good day. Funny thing is, we went home with only a few pebbles each. Because once you get past the “just pick ’em up” stage, you become selective.
And that’s how the story started, the boys and rocks. We visited Squamish Mining Museum enough times to know my way through it with my eyes closed if need be; we chose beaches based on the rocks we’d find there, and our conversations had a new tag line: “Can I trade you that?”
Then they wanted books. Some we bought, some we borrowed from the library; the boys learned about rocks and gems and started collecting in style. They each have their own exquisite collection with a few rare items. Fossils are my youngest’s favourites, while his brother prefers semi-precious gems.
Every time we pass through Lillooet, we stop by the exquisite Rock Shop. It’s a place where you forget about time if you happen to be a rock junkie. We did. The boys learned where the best rock hounding is, they got to see rarely seen rocks and gems, and we each earned our own piece of British Columbian jade.
Why did this all happen? Because they were fascinated and could not just let it drop. They wanted to learn about it because they were curious. I may have opened their eyes to rocks and pebbles, and I challenged them with my trading game, but … the rest was their work alone.
Finding their own worthy rocks; wondering why some are white and opaque, while others are yellow with red tinges; and when you break them they sparkle like diamonds. I never asked them to do any of that. They wanted to.
That’s one of the biggest reasons why I think children should be left to follow their nose when learning. Curiosity is what powers learning; sadly, sometimes we find curiosity dies an early death and is replaced by boredom and routine.
I don’t believe in forcing children to learn about things for the sake of getting a mark or passing an exam. You could argue that everything is interesting if the teacher makes it so. Be it so, I still believe we’re drawn to certain things, and our minds won’t rest until we know more. Knowledge is powered by curiosity, which is powered by a sense of wonder.
The rocks my youngest boy brought home that day — they split them open with a hammer. They found nothing astounding in there. It mattered not. Other rocks collected from the shores of Tranquille Creek revealed shiny veins that made their eyes sparkle.
One day, we will find spectacular geodes. I know we will. That’s part of the excitement. The real thrill is in discovering and learning, though. Children know that.
We all did at some point.
There, you’ve been reminded.
* * *