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On childhood wonder

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I've been thinking a lot about my recent discovery of enthusiasm and the effect it has on my kids. In a recent post I wrote about it more as a technique for getting my kids to do what I want. Or about getting them to be happy about doing it anyways.

But, while showing enthusiasm about an activity or a chore is a positive and gentle way to generate more participation and cooperation than I might otherwise get, it's really so much more important than I first realized.

More than agreeability, it can incite wonder. Wonder. My kids' wonder. Wonder in my kids' lives and minds and memories.

Yesterday a child came out to wonder,
caught a dragon fly inside a jar.
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder,
and tearful at the falling of a star.

Joni Mitchell, The Circle Game

I am not particularly good at mindfulness and living in the moment and being present all the time (though I try), but those moments when I see my kids express genuine wonder make me catch my breath. They fill me up. More than anything else, I think, this is the absolute beauty and magic of childhood - the ability to be so fascinated, the willingness to get so excited, the openness to total joy, the curiosity to explore and experiment.

And the privilege of parenthood is to help it happen and soak in its beauty.

I want to help to create and encourage wonder in my children's lives.

Since I can't stomach the Santa Claus stuff, and religion isn't my thing, and fairies and elves and things don't work for me either, the wonder that I can help them to discover will have to find other outlets. Thunderstorms, sunsets, frogs, somersaults and homemade pasta. That kind of thing.

It's not that we don't celebrate these things or take the time to savour them. We do. Especially living out here, we really savour how much family time we have and the natural beauty that surrounds us.

I had just never really thought to purposely add extra touches of elaborate enthusiasm, just because. It seems those extra touches can go a far way to infusing moments with wonder, to making them extra special and memorable and exciting. And if I can do that for my kids, why wouldn't I?


Last night, we had a bizarre invasion of insects in our house. We ended up having to stuff a towel underneath our front door because they were just clamouring to get in any way they could. And when I say clamour, I mean their noisy and repeated 'boink' against our windows sounded like rain!

Along with all the nameless, harmless, annoying flying and crawling critters that were suddenly all over the place, there was a beautiful, bright green grasshopper. Not unlike the one we saw get gulped down by the froggy in my blog header (see the bit of the grasshopper still sticking out?).

I would have normally shown some interest in the little jumper to try to engage the kids. They like bugs. Plus, it's not like I never smile or dance or anything. I can be extra silly, dance like crazy, sing too loudly, get into raucous tickling and wrestling, and all this generates special times too. But this time I purposely filled this otherwise "Hey-look-at-this" moment with extra enthusiasm, with wonder. 'WOW! Look at how green it is! Look at how it jumps! Oooooo, did you see THAT?"

That cackle of excitement, that shared look of complicity, that totally unexpected, emotional embrace? Scientific proof that a little fake enthusiasm can be a very good thing.

1 comment:

Flo said...

How fantastic to teach them the ability to be interested in the things around them and to find happiness in that too.

What an important skill to have - making happiness (and pasta) out of the ingredients in the cupboard.

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