How do we learn?

I have an almost-2-year-old granddaughter who spends a lot of time with us, since we do a lot of the babysitting. When she was a baby, life was reasonably quiet. She was content to just be held, fed, and changed.

But then something triggered in her mind, and she started to actively learn. Actively…as in on-the-go almost all the time! Actively…as in me thinking “I’m tired!” when she goes home. Actively…as in wanting to figure out what those funny squiggles on a page in a book mean. Actively…as in demanding to spend time working with shapes on my tablet.

It’s an incredible experience to watch.

I wish I could be inside her mind, watching how she makes connections…how she figures out how things work…as she puts the puzzle pieces of this world together. I don’t know how she does it.

Everything around her is part of the learning experience. Everything and everyone becomes part of this whole process. And at this point in her life, she doesn’t separate people or things into “acceptable” or “non-acceptable” based on anything except for whether she likes the taste of a specific food or whether someone is too noisy or too rough. It’s all just part of her world.

She has an older sibling who she has adored. She doesn’t see D right now, because D is living with biological mother, trying to get some things sorted out…including gender identity issues. That didn’t matter to Ladybug. D was (and is) someone she adores…who spent a lot of time playing with her. There’s enough difference in their ages that D will be experiencing life as an adult before Ladybug begins school–but I think she will still have positive memories of this older sibling.

As I watch her grow, I am reminded again of a powerful song from the musical South Pacific. Lieutenant Cable has fallen in love with the beautiful daughter of Bloody Mary…but he realizes that he can’t take her back home with him, because she would not be accepted. Why? Because she isn’t “like” the folks back home. He sings this song in agony before he heads out on a mission that he will not survive:

What a tragedy…for people–all of us–to be taught to be afraid of people who are different from us!

But I think there is hope. If we can be taught to fear and hate, then surely we can be taught to love…but it takes a willingness to get to know each…to get past the barriers we’ve put up to keep us separate.

All I have to do is to watch Ladybug in her interactions with this world. It’s a fascinating place to her…and me.


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