As I was walking out to my car the other day, I watched a bird swooping down, and then beating his wings to gain altitude before plunging once more. I can almost imagine what it must feel like to so casually fly enjoying the rush of the dive and the anticipation of the climb. I am jealous. It made me wonder if a snail or even a snake looks upon us and wonders what it must be like to constantly fall and catch ourselves as we walk and run from place to place. We think nothing of it. It is merely walking and running, this falling and catching ourselves we do so easily. Wonder it would seem, is all about perspective.
From a child’s point of view, being able to pick what foods to cook and eat seems like a great opportunity, not some chore which needs to be done for the family multiple times every day. Why should a child be thankful for food they don’t like when if they were picking the food it would be cake and ice cream? So while it seems wonder may be all about perspective, so too are the senses of obligation, duty, boredom and frustration which a parent might feel at having to plan, get, and prepare food needed for children to grow.
I was thinking about all of this after we cheered for K sitting up at the table and screaming. I pointed out my long standing theory that parents cheer for every stage of development of their children despite every new stage meaning more work for the parents. After all, a baby in a crib or playpen is safe, but one who has learned to crawl around the house requires more supervision and preparation to avoid dangers like falling down stairs or licking electrical outlets or…. When I pointed this out (again), my wife said, “Yes but there is a special joy which comes from watching a delayed child progress.” I guess so, but it comes right back to my “perspective.” It feels special because it is no longer expected.
As our kids are now 5 and 6, it is easier to get frustrated as parent because we are beginning to have expectations whether these are fair or not. Sometimes it is hard to remember when we wondered if A would ever walk as she sat on the play mat. We wondered how delayed she would be, but now she reads books herself at an above 1st grade level. She dances. Sometimes as O screams out in rage or complains because he wants to get out of bed, it’s easy to forget the progress as he is no longer shoving poo under the door in protest. Here is a boy who faced 50/50 odds on mental retardation due to injury twice, and the silly boy is smart as a whip.
My question is when and why do we lose our early wonder as our kids get older? Is it because we become necessary as order providers, and in doing so are forced into the “Don’t do that” role so often that the perspective of amazement is harder to hold? My father-in-law once said, “The hardest part of being a parent is not getting mad at a kid for acting their age.” I think that is still true, but a really close second is maintaining that sense of amazement and wonder. I keep telling myself, “The angrier I am, the better the story of this incident is likely to be in a week.” Keep laughing I tell myself…though it is often really hard to listen in the moment.