Before I had children, I decided their childhoods would be magical. I believe life is best lived with a sense of wonder. I mean my goodness, we live in a world of pink sunsets and hearts that beat and the taste of creme brulee. Each day holds something worth going wide eyed over but something about adulthood makes all that day to day glory difficult to see. Pre-mother me was determined to gather up the innate awe of childhood and make it such a part of my children they couldn't leave it behind in the years that callous and take away.
I knew that I wasn’t the kind of mother that would get a homemade dinner on the table every night. I suspected that my house would never be sparkling clean. And I had enough self-awareness to know I was not the type that could hold my children to practice schedules and far off goals. Let’s just say the odds of them playing the violin or piano beyond two lessons are not great. So many deficiencies, but I was able to shrug them off. I felt I could give them something with more value than schedules and perfectly folded laundry.
My babies would grow up with song and story. They would live in the same world as fairies and star wishes and can-do dreams come true. My children would be raised by a mama that covered the day in possibility and dusted their nights with sugar. Who, I thought, needs a clean house when your home is full of wonder?
And then I actually had those babies.
I remember the first time I realized I wasn’t providing my children the childhood I thought I could give them. No, the realization was deeper than that, it was really the first time I realized I wasn’t capable of giving them that childhood. Zuzu had just hurdled past the one year mark and I was tired. Monster’s Inc was on repeat and the floors were crunchy with cheerios and sticky with milk. I looked at my curly headed daughter still in her pajamas on a sunny afternoon and knew I could do better. I also knew I couldn’t do better every day.
At least in my house, there will always be days when with too much tv and too little anything else. There will be missed opportunities. And sometimes, I will be too tired to create them when they are not naturally presented. There will be tears and too many chicken nuggets and the occasional curse word. (Nothing worse than damn...usually.) There will be days that feel like they will never end and days that are blinked away. I know this about myself and am learning to make peace with it.
The didn't-get-it-done days will not leave us. But with a lot of love and a real honest to goodness belief in fairies (Not really...but kind of...just clap your hands already), I am learning to put as much space between those do-nothing days as I possibly can.
And that space in between? Sometimes it almost feels like magic.
Four ways to teach your children to live with wonder.
Immerse yourselves in truth seeking adventures. We are all on this same journey together, I just happen to be a few years ahead of my two girls. There is so much to discover together. I want them to know the joy of seeking and learning. I want them to know that they are here for just two reasons, to love and to learn the truth.
For us right now, that means picking a subject and focusing on it a month at a time. This month it is going to be dinosaurs. We are going to read about dinosaurs, color dinosaurs, visit dinosaur museums! And yes by the end of the month, we may know the difference between a Supersaurus and an Albertosaurus.
More importantly, I hope I have begun teaching them that the world is made of wonderful things just waiting to be discovered. And discovered is exactly the right word here. You can’t tell me that actual discovery of the great Supersaurus was any more exciting than watching my four year old see one in a museum for the first time.
Wander with them. Go on walks and bike rides and long drives with the windows down. Teach them the value of the scenic route. This is a lesson important for other aspects of their lives. Gather treasures on your great wanders. Collect leaves and rocks and flowers. Ask them to observe the environment around you. So often their eyes see things ours have passed over or dismissed.
On our walks, Viola squeaks while Zuzu and I make up stories. Her stories always involve a butterfly named Isabella, she is, “MADE OF SOFT WINGS AND COVERED IN RAINBOW DUST.” I mean, naturally.
Make your treks a time to talk and confide and ask questions. By doing so you will create a safe place for the more serious conversations the future surely holds.
Read with them. I have written about this before (here and here), but I simply can’t say it enough. Books teach us about worlds unseen and truths unmoved. Reading to your children allows them to travel to the bottom of the sea and have tea parties with rabbits on the top of a cloud. Reading is both inspiration and answer. If you want to instill a permanent sense of awe in your children, teach them to love books.
Validate their natural awe. Yes, childhood comes with tear down the house tantrums and whining that stretches from here to Timbuktu. But it also has an unmatched capacity for happy amazement . Embrace that happiness. Take up and hold those little moments that happen daily, like when they ask you to count the stars or twirl with them in a crowded park. Why not count star to star (for a little while) or twirl until we all fall down? By participating in their natural awe, even when it makes us look ridiculous, we are validating that sense of amazement. It is a lovely thing, teaching our children that their wonder is absolutely valid one twirl at a time.
The most beautiful part of the moments of wonder I get with my little girls? For just an instant I am able to see the world as they see it. And in that moment, that heart stopping, throw back your head with delight, big eyed moment, I am given an important understanding. What they see is so much closer to reality than what my own vision so often gives me.
And that is a beautiful, wondrous thing.