415. The Regular Way

People who feel secure often like to try new things. That’s because even though security is great, it’s not all there is, and people do get bored doing what they’ve always done in the way they’ve always done it. Even if they do it very well, and even if they get lots of appreciation. We like to feel that we’re learning – growing – moving. So we explore new worlds, try things we’ve never tried. And we’re often glad we did.
But that’s only if we feel secure. If not, we like to rely on what we know. What we know may be mediocre, ineffective, or boring. It may not win us any prizes, or pave the way for great things. But at least we know it. And if we’re not secure, we crave the familiar. Other people can explore new worlds if they want; we’re happy that at least we have our old world to rely on.
Children have a reputation for being open to new things, and to a certain degree, it’s a deserved reputation. They haven’t had as many opportunities to try things as adults have, and they want such opportunities. Given chances to try things, they often seem bolder than adults – less worried about what could go wrong. They try, succeed or fail, and often try again, undaunted by failure, or not content with a little success. They revise their approaches based on their evaluations of their failures and successes. It can be inspiring.
But like us, children can also be very cautious and conservative. It depends partly on their nature and partly on how they’ve been nurtured. Once, working at a day care center, I helped supervise a field trip to a little swamp. We were supposed to be letting children experience the swamp as an exciting ecosystem. Some of the teachers had checked out the swamp in advance to make sure it was safe, and they assured the children (and me) that it was. No alligators, leaches, or anything else to worry about. Just friendly creatures who happened to prefer swamp life.
Three of the teachers took off their shoes and waded into the swamp. One didn’t. Almost all of the children did, and they really looked as if they were having fun, partly getting to know the little creatures who inhabited the swamp, and partly just being creatures who temporarily inhabited it. Two children stayed on dry land with me. They did not want to go into the swamp. I knew that I wasn’t setting a good example; I wasn’t rising above my fear of swamps. But I was letting children know that being afraid did not make you a baby; I was obviously not a baby.
Caution can often be a good thing. There are things we’re better off not trying because they are quite likely to end up resulting in negative experiences, and whatever possible positive experiences they might bring on aren’t worth the risk. I know that varies from person to person. But having been and still being
somewhat timid, I understand children and adults who would rather do things “the regular way,” and it’s all right with me.

Comments are closed.