Learn to look. Then be willing to see things differently.
I grew up adoring my grandmother’s touch-me-not plants (Mimosa pudica). With a gentle swipe of my finger, these delicate creatures would fold their leaves and droop in a way that would impress even the masterfully forlorn and judgy Eeyore. Being able to interact with — to be acknowledged by — the natural world felt magical. I sensed care for my row of potted friends. I sensed connection.
But as most relationships go, our love was complicated. My curiosity and fascination drove me to poke them. To watch them fold and curl. Open. Poke. Fold and curl. Open. Poke. Fold. Curl. Poke.
But after several rounds of poke and watch, my heart would speak. And as with the drive to poke them, I felt a drive to stop. I’d curl down my head as though a great finger compressed my gut. In a queasy, hushed whisper, I’d apologize.
You see, I didn’t need an adult to explain why my botanical treasures were folding and drooping — children know what it’s like to feel unsafe. They recognize embodied fear as though it’s encoded deep in their bones. And children understand armor. They understand it as though their lives depend on it. Because their lives do depend on it. And with their innate wisdom about fear and armor, they get it: there’s no way in hell to gain BFF status with your beloved plants if you poke them. It’s not personal. They’re just scared.