Child’s world view reminds us to wonder

Child's world view reminds us to wonder

My eldest, Brittany, at the age when “ott”
meant “hot” as she pointed out discoveries.

What’s it like to be a child? It’s been a while since I was one, but I have some young friends who remind me.

To be a child is to have a sense of wonder. You can see it in their eyes, hear it in their questions, and know it from the way they get excited. Their reactions are pure, unfiltered. They look at life through a unique frame, relentlessly original.

Years ago my father had a young friend named Matt. Five years old at the time, Matt’s sense of wonder was impressive, shown by the distinct way he put words together. My father loved to share his stories.

One day when beautiful white clouds formed all sorts of imaginable animals against a blue backdrop, Matt said to his mother, “Could we drive down the road and see if any clouds have run out of breath and fallen?”

“Have you ever seen a fallen cloud, Matt?” his mother asked.

“One time I saw a cloud caught in top of a tree, and another time I saw one floating on the river,” Matt allowed, and kept looking at the sky, wondering about the clouds.

During Matt’s toilet training days, he once sneezed, liberally spraying his pajama bottoms. He went to his mother and explained. “Mommy, I didn’t wet my ‘jamas,’ I just bless-you’d all over ’em.”

To be a child is to be a poet, using the sense of wonder as lyrics for the building of thoughts, thoughts that sometimes lie too deep for words — but not for expression. Bright eyes, shrieks of delight, or an incessant tug on our shirt tail remind us of the power of wonder and the thrill of sharing it.

My eldest, Brittany, had a unique way of expressing her wonder at age three. She’d squat down low to the ground, point that stubby finger at her discovery and holler, “Ott!” meaning “hot” when she’d found something new but not yet worthy of touch.

They use what they have to connect to us. Yet their world is different. They live in a forest of legs and knees. That’s all they see of adults unless they risk losing their bearings by looking far up at the tall timbers that surround them.

Some adults know the secret of entering their world. They stoop down to eye level and take interest in whatever’s playing in the child’s mind.

Children are impressed by little things, like a funny-shaped stick that resembles something their minds conjure up. Or a sparkling rock they imagine is a precious jewel.

But big important adult-world things leaves them untouched, unmoved. A house is a house, a car is a car, and time is something that has no beginning and certainly no ending.

Their sense of wonder makes an ocean of a bathtub; a pile of leaves, a spacewalk. And somehow a mud hole yields clay fit for a sculptor while chairs with blankets draped over them become a castle to be defended at any cost.

And life is simple and pretty wonderful.

This column was originally published as part of my “Looking Homeward” series at