This little board book was a stocking stuffer for Girl Powers’s first Christmas, bought on a whim (read: frantic last-minute Target run) without much thought. It’s one of those children’s books that the more I read the more I like the messages within.
The basic plot goes like this: Baby Owl goes for a walk in the woods at night. He bumps into one forest creature after another, each of whom tells him “Don’t be scared”, followed by “You shouldn’t be out alone at night.” He gets more and more defensive with each encounter until he has a total meltdown on these pages:
There’s a few of things I love about this book. One is the nurturing father figure who helps Baby Owl calm down by acknowledging that it’s okay to be a little afraid of the dark. Another is the stuffed toy/lovie “Owly” on whom Baby Owl gets to act out and project his fear (“It’s Owly who’s scared. Everyone keeps making him jump.”). Most of all, though, I love this page with the meltdown.
Here’s why I think it’s brilliant, and more about parenting than you might think. Baby Owl is scared of the dark, of course, but all the well-meaning grown-ups who keep telling him not to be are making him more and more defensive and more and more stubborn about acknowledging his fear. It’s like when we tell our kids “don’t be shy” when they meet someone new; it isn’t helpful, and it only backs them into a corner where their only choices are to accept the label or completely react against it. Instead, accepting their fear or shyness and making it okay (like Baby Owl’s father does) allows them to work through it – with or without grown-up help.
The other thing Baby Owl says that has always stuck with me is “It’s what owls DO!”. There’s something really poignant about that statement. He’s out on his own in the woods at night because that’s what owls do; there’s no other way to learn independence than to just start taking walks in the woods by yourself at night. Yes, he’s scared, but he’s becoming what he’s meant to become, scary or not. It’s actually totally brave.
We’ve been dealing with some completely age-three-appropriate and also totally maddening behavior recently – whining, pushing limits, difficulty with transitions, standoffishness and clingyness in the same nanosecond. This It’s what owls DO! line has kind of become my mantra for accepting the behavior for what it is, acknowledging where it comes from and helping her work through it as best I can (and stepping away when I can’t). Being three is a long walk in the woods at night with everybody telling you what you should be feeling and what you shouldn’t be doing. It’s sandwiches cut the wrong way and leavemealoneIcandoitmySELFMommmyyyyyyIneeedheeeeeelllp!!!!. Its giggles and tears in the same sentence. It’s knowing more than you’ve ever known before and also not understanding nearly enough to make sense of the world around you. It sucks a lot of the time. The least I can do is to do what Baby Owl’s father does at the end – read a favorite book, snuggle, hug and accept.