Some times - when I am well rested and not stressed beyond thinking - I wonder about the many things that seem to come into our lives just to teach us things.
Are we particularly good at learning through experiences? Do we (as a family) just have a lot to learn? Is something else behind it all?
Right now we have kittens - you may have noticed ;) - and they seem to have a lot to teach us.
Each of the younger children have bonded with a different kitten, which is quite convenient really :)
A loves Tabitha. A, being really rather girly by nature, loves animals and cuddly toys. I think she has been getting just a little muddled with how to treat real animals, and has been pulling Tabitha around a bit - not maliciously, just lots of squishy hugs and carrying her about. Tabitha is the calmest kitten, easiest to stroke, most chilled out. She is reminding A - gently - that it's not on to be too rough. There have been a few hisses and swats of paws with no claws. And it's working in a way that me reminding A never has.
J likes Jet. Jet is the fastest, the explorer, the smallest and most likely to squeeze into small gaps. J has a tendency to stroke and pet Jet, but then forget he is there. Short quick contact seems to suit these two best, and they are both thriving on it.
M is fascinated by Tortie. But Tortie is standoffish, snappy, the most likely to hiss, bite and scratch. She "telegraphs" her feelings very clearly in her body language, and will not tolerate being mishandled or prodded. M on the other hand is not good at reading peoples body language, he used to dive for the kittens, and grab whatever bit he could reach. Tortie has the most to teach M, and he has the most to learn. She is showing him that her feelings matter, that he has to approach her just right, that he can't over-do it, that he needs to keep track of how she is feeling. Like Tabitha with A, Tortie will reinforce the lessons with a paw and a hiss, but her claws are always out and M gets scratched.
The thing is, for years I have been trying to get M to calm down with our dog. Telling him hasn't worked, talking it through did nothing, but now Tortie is helping him listen and learn. Will he be able to translate this learning to human interactions? I have no idea, but it's a start, it's something more to build on.
There are other lessons that the kittens are teaching us.
I am the only one cleaning out the litter tray (no real surprise there) but the rest of my family are realising that if they don't give me time to do that job then it all gets a bit wiffy . . . They are seeing that all these "mummy jobs" that they keep interrupting actually matter, there are consequences if stuff isn't done.
Until now the kittens have been living in our spare room with the door firmly closed. Next Tuesday uncle N is coming to stay, so the kittens need to move into the rest of the house. Yesterday we opened the door and left it open for several hours, but apart from a few brief forays into the living room (next door) the kittens resolutely stayed put. They were born wild, and roamed a long way before we ended up with them, but now after three weeks of incarceration they are afraid to venture beyond their perceived boundaries. I hope that with time, and more leaving the door open, they will rampage through the whole house, but it is clear that their metaphorical wings have been clipped, their urge to explore has been dulled, and in so many ways that saddens me.
I wonder if this is an allegory for this generation of children. Born wild and free, exploring and conquering their world, only to be caught, incarcerated, confined and tamed by schools, to the point that they feel unsafe venturing outside the box they are put into.
I want our children to explore beyond the edges of their view, to cross the horizon, to find new ways to be and never stop. Maybe the kittens came along to remind me to open as many doors as I could find.