Leaves on a Fence


The World’s Best Classroom

Sometimes the best parenting moments happen when you just get out of your kids’ way.

Autumn winds have started, and the other day at the playground Boo and her friend and I walked up the stairs to the overlooking tennis court to watch the trees blow around.

The wind in our faces, cutting easterly through that high fence that always seems to overlook tennis courts — the kind with a couple of balls rammed hard into the chain link about 15 feet off the ground.

Wandering around, Boo found a dandelion growing through the concrete and (I’ve taught her well) immediately started weeding it out, tearing one leaf at a time. When she accidentally dropped one leaf, she was delighted to find that the wind blew it against her chest and held it there for a minute like some sort of applique spinach before finally carrying it away into the distance.

Seized by an idea, she took the next leaf and poked it through the fence, so that when she let go the leaf was affixed there, unable to push through the links or fall to the ground, held up as it was by the wind.

Eventually her leaf did fall, but by then Boo had collected a dozen more and stuck them in their own places on the fence, a green collage held up by the power of autumn. She and her friend made a game of it, and although I never really learned the rules, it kept them occupied for a quarter hour.

Then they were off to the next thing, principles of physics and meteorology learned and discarded, probably to be retained — the more so because the whole time (partially repentant science teacher that I am) I managed not to say a single thing.

  • Not “Do you know why that works?”
    • Not “Here, try it this way!”

      • Not even a “Wow, look what you’ve discovered!” (Well, not until later, anyway.)
      I just got to be a witness: to the observation, the epiphany, the hypothesis, the experiment, and the assimilation.

    Yeah. That’s what it’s all about.