It never dawned on me when I was pregnant with my daughter that she might have interests that I did not. She’s a girl, right? So, in my mind I saw her enjoying playing with dolls, coloring and reading tales of princesses and mermaids. While my daughter does all three of those things on occasion, her absolute favorite thing to do is learn everything she possibly can about nature and animals.
Of course, my girl is one half of my husband. As a child he memorized facts about animals and collected bugs and snakes. Why it never crossed my mind that my girl could have those interests too I am not sure. But here I am with a five-year-old who is so excited to tell me that “Sea Otters help their environment by pooping in pickleweed.” While I personally find this fact disgusting, it fascinates my daughter and she goes on to explain that “Sea Otter poop is a great fertilizer for Pickleweed which strengthens the mud banks of their environment protecting it from rushing water.” (There’s your science lesson for the day, you’re welcome!)
Now I am what I like to call an “indoor girl”. I’m not a big fan of the outdoors and squeal at the sight of a bug or creepy crawly animal. So how can I parent a kid that enjoys exploring nature and learning about the same creepy crawlies that give me the heebie-jeebies?
Here are 3 things I have learned to do over the last 5 years to encourage her independence!
Eliminate expectations. I stopped having expectations about what her interests “should be”. I don’t force her to do things that don’t interest her because I enjoyed doing those things as a kid. If my daughter would rather play with her bug collector than my old Barbies, I don’t let it hurt my feelings. We offer her toys and books that spark her interest. I started saving the ones that don’t, in case her little sister chooses to use them one day.
I utilize I my resources. Just because I don’t know a thing about animals, doesn’t mean I can’t foster my girl’s fascination with the subject. I’ve done my research and there are so many books and shows that we can read and watch together. Thanks to a great friend we have a subscription to National Geographic Kids magazine. There’s also a great non-fiction section for kids at our local library. It is pretty cool getting to learn together.
Her favorite show is Wild Kratts and I have to say we both learn a lot from it. I have even started following the Kratt Brothers as well as Bindi Irwin on Instagram. She gets so excited when I come across a post from one of them and read her the animal facts. I think it means a lot to her that even though I wouldn’t normally choose to research animal and nature facts that I do it for her. Which brings me to my next point.
I get out of my comfort zone. Though spending time out in Nature isn’t my favorite thing to do, I make sure we take walks. I get out of my comfort zone, and she gets a chance to dig in the dirt for bugs. I also now find myself memorizing nature facts that I hear when she isn’t with me so that I can tell her later. It’s important to me that I take interest in the things that she loves. Never would I have dreamed of knowing exactly why a Sea Otter’s poop is good for their environment. However, getting out of my comfort zone and learning about these new things has not only made me a better parent, but also a more knowledgeable person.
While parenting a child different from myself hasn’t always been easy, doing these three things have helped a lot. I now better relate to my daughter and I am actually excited to learn about things I never imagined enjoying before.