September 4, 2013

Like a Baby

I regularly babysit a two-year old girl. And I spent the last couple weeks of August caring for her almost-seven-year-old sister, as well as another friend’s one-year old daughter. Adding in my own two girls, we had a house overflowing with estrogen!

But the place was also bursting with wonder. It was constantly obvious in the baby, whose eyes grew wide with interest every time she picked up a new toy. Whether noting what happened when she banged two sorting cups together, “talking” to a Little People figurine she turned over and over in her hands, or discovering the knobs and buttons on a toy barn, her wonder about everything was clear.

Likewise with the two-year old, who revels in paging carefully through picture books and making long lines of toy dishes, blocks, and Mr. Potato Head parts, it’s clear that she’s regularly fascinated by the world around her, too.

With older kids and adults, though, wonder is often more difficult to elicit and detect. Either we’re preoccupied with necessary daily tasks – from schoolwork to laundry to keeping up with emails – or we become discouraged and skeptical because of the all-too-ugly life realities that go unnoticed by young children.

But watching the baby and toddler in my care, I was reminded of wonder and felt challenged to purposefully direct myself and the older children toward it. So I asked each of the older girls to tell me about one thing that makes her think, “Wow!”

Young Anna, who will turn seven in a month, smiled and promptly said, “Airplanes. I saw one right up close once, and I saw another one landing. It was really close to the ground and it was really big.”

Eleven-year old Abigail replied, “The amazing animals God made. Like the duck-billed platypus. That’s a sign of God’s sense of humor!”

Twelve-year old Rachel, herself an artist, had to think for a few moments, but she finally said, “Art. Michelangelo.”

And what amazes me is noticing at random moments the unique wiring of each child’s mind and heart as they all grow and develop into who God means for each to be. I really do regularly marvel at the creativity they have, the notions they contemplate, and the skills they demonstrate. On a more grown-up level, it’s all an extension of the baby studying the details of her own moving fingers.

Having wonder – a natural astonishment about the world – is an innate human genius quality. Anyone who’s observed babies and toddlers must acknowledge that. Thus, we don’t really need to find ways to develop it. Rather, what older kids – and adults – need in this case is a commitment to keeping our inborn wonder alive and active.

So what can you do today to awaken wonder in yourself and the kids in your care?

Photo Credit: christina robinson


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