Yesterday I was hiking up a steep gully through a pine forest with a group of 8-12-year-olds when we made an exciting discovery. Two large white eggs sat gleaming on a bed of dry pine needles. About 3m uphill sat another two. Peacock eggs, cold and long ago abandoned, likely rotten.
My adult wisdom prevailed and I convinced my team of adventurers that we should leave them where they were. Rotten eggs were not something I wanted to be smelling for the rest of the day, and I was sure their parents didn't want a heap of stinky rotten-egg-covered clothes in the wash basket that night.
We continued on our quest to the top of the ridge. I took one step and - pop! The unmistakable sound of a gas-filled egg exploded under my foot, followed quickly by the unmistakable stench. We gasped, we grimaced, we howled with laughter.
Taking stock of the situation I quickly decided that a controlled explosion was much safer than letting these stink bombs end up in enemy hands. With no bomb-detonating robot on hand, I gave the all clear. "Well, we might as well just smash them all then."
Never before have I seen faces painted with an expression of such pure joy. Eyebrows were lifted. Eyes were twinkling. Mouths dropped agape in disbelief and anticipation. It was like getting permission to open your brother's birthday present or being allowed to eat the whole chocolate Easter bunny in one sitting. In the end we found eight eggs in total and the smashing of those eggs was exuberant to say the least. And really wretchedly awful. Our hearts were pounding.
Kids do things that make their hearts beat fast every day. Maybe 100 times a day. And that's precisely why they grow so much.
Doctors might speak of how the release of endorphins and the enhanced flow of oxygen pumping through the system boosts brain performance. Teachers speak to this growth using different terms. We talk about comfort zones and Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development. When we push ourselves to do things that are just beyond our everyday norm, we are in the perfect space for learning.
When's the last time you rolled down a hill? Or jumped off something high enough it gave you butterflies? Or swung a swing so high that you thought it might flip? Or painted your face with mud?
I recently discovered that doing somersaults now makes me nauseous. I am aghast. When did this happen? There must be some point in our lives when our adult brain develops so much sense that there is no room left for the part of the brain that regulates somersault nausea. At some point I stopped doing somersaults for a long enough time that I lost it. I'm sure it coincided with the wisdom I gained during university or pregnancy, or some other sedentary period of my life.
This week on the corner of Guyton St and St Hill St a colourful addition to the footpath showed up – a hopscotch court. I love it. I hope every person who meets up with it when they round the corner takes a second to have a little play.
Because it really is use it or lose it. If we aren't pushing ourselves every day to do something that is a little new and out of the ordinary, our adult sensibilities creep in and we start walking the same well-trodden path until it becomes a rut. We find ourselves asking the child walking next to us "Why do you need to roll down the hill? Can't you just walk?". And then suddenly, before you know it, we've lost the ability to roll down the hill at all.