Today the kids come in and get to playing, mid-March style, in full form. One three says to her good friend, another three, “Actually, I don’t want to be a mom. I want to be a dog.” She switches from looking after wayward children to being dragged around on a long pink ribbon of a leash by her four year old friend, her three year old buddy on a matching leash by her side.

Soon after, Liana gets excited to take some kids outside to do rubbings. One of our threes loves the words he finds on our walks around town, GAS in particular. Liana asks who would like to join her, and soon has a crowd of four, then six, when the dogs shift gears to adventurers.

In the back room two boys are playing, a three and a five who have discovered they both like to build and pretend. One five is beside me on the couch, resting and snuggling after having been out sick nearly two weeks. A lone three stands on top of the climber across from us. I wonder if he might be lonely. I ask him if he’d like to go out and do rubbings, or play in the back room with his friends, or join us on the couch for a book. “I’m hunting.” he says. “I’m hunting elephants.” Well, yes, I guess I shouldn’t assume a person on the climber is just standing there with no plan.

Later in the day, when the kids come inside and my five is desperate for food, having had a stomach bug and an ear infection and a fever and GI trouble from the antibiotics so long she feels delicate and limp at my side, I go to see what has been happening in the back room. The hunter had joined the three and the five and I am astounded to see they have covered the floor with enclosures and filled them with animals, groups of elephants, tigers, pairs of cows, a baby dinosaur on a large dinosaur’s back, giraffes, a giraffe and a panda bear, with a divider down the middle of their cage, a killer whale made of tinker toys. I am so impressed I call the kids to the back room to organize ourselves for meeting and clean up. When we are all there, I start the meeting by noticing that my three and five have been very busy. The five adds that the other three was also part of the game. He says he was “ordering the animals” and I wonder in my mind if that means bossing the animals around or lining them up in tidy rows, ask aloud, “what do you mean by ordering the animals?”

The three clarifies, “I shot a buck. I’m cooking it right now.”

The five wonders what is a buck. I ask the three to clarify. He says it is an animal with big horns, with four points, and he touches the sides of his head near the top, where the horns would come out. The five wonders if this is a bull. The three cannot say, but thinks it is not. I wonder if a buck is a deer, but this seems unclear to the three as well.

We move on and kids notice the different animals in the pens. We talk about and look at the zoo. We share the rubbings from outside and make a plan to take some kids on further adventures making sidewalk rubbings with Liana after breakfast while others go straight to the park with me.

This is the nature of choice and young children with us. Some days it is best to be a mom, other days a dog, some days a hunter, a builder, a zoo maker, or an out of doors adventurer on the teacher’s plan. It’s taken me a lifetime to get here, or perhaps to come back here from the time I was a girl, to fully appreciate the children’s agendas and creative instincts, to be in their presence with a minimal agenda of my own and to expect that some days they will barely need me at all, at least not to figure out what they want to be or do.

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