I love this expression: the wonder of little souls. I just came across it in Mitch Albom’s book Finding Chika: A Little Girl, An Earthquake, and the Making of a Family. It’s a sweet, poignant book that’s reinforcing the nostalgic mood I’ve had lately. Last weekend the kids and I went through my three large boxes of keepsakes in the garage: pictures, awards, yearbooks, trinkets, poems, and other assorted items from my childhood, high school and college years. Looking at all those things reminds me of my childlike wonder and enthusiasm for life.
Interacting with Sienna and Mateo, I’m constantly in awe of their imagination and wonderment. They can make up a game or imaginary world out of anything! As an adult, I have a hard time entering into that world. I can tell Sienna notices this about me. When I allow myself to be carried away by her story or engage in a silly game without reservation, she usually will say something like: “I love it when you’re silly, Mom!”
A few nights ago, the kids were playing in Teo’s room for awhile. Sienna ran to the living room and said, “Mom, come play with us!” I put down my book and joined them.
Teo has a lot of stuffed animals that all reside in his bed. They had sorted them by size. Sienna had the small set and Teo had the large set. “You get the medium sized ones!” Sienna informed me. I was then given a plastic sword and a Marine Corps dress uniform hat from an old Halloween costume. Our “troops” of stuffed animals were fighting a wicked witch and eventually the “battle” resulted in stuffed animals flying through the air. A few times the silliness caused hysterical giggles over those types of things you “had to be there” to find amusing.
The validation of my engagement in their fun came as Sienna exclaimed, “I love it when you’re silly!” I do too. But, I don’t often go there and I’ve been pondering why on and off ever since. It takes reaching a certain space of freedom and inhibition for me to join in imaginative play. Freedom from striving, accomplishing, keeping my interior world orderly. In other words, tapping into the childlike innocence and wonder that I am nostalgic for when I reminisce with old keepsakes.
The wonder of little souls is just this delightful aspect of childhood, isn’t it? The ability to create an imaginative world with your sibling that isn’t bound by the rational, realistic laws of nature or normative behavior. Stuffed bunnies can be Generals and kangaroos can dress up like Darth Vader.
Kids also bring that sense of wonder to the world around them, asking questions and exclaiming with delight when they discover something new or interesting. This just happened for Sienna and Mateo when they discovered a family of baby squirrels behind the fence in our backyard. I later found about 50 pictures on my cell phone of the squirrels!
Reflecting on his time with Chika, the Haitian little girl that became his daughter, Mitch Albom wrote to her:
“You put me on the other end of a magnifying glass or a toy telescope, and through those lenses, I could marvel at the world the way you did. You were an unfailing antidote to adult preoccupation.
All you had to say was, “Look!”
Look. It’s one of the shortest sentences in the English language. But we don’t really look, Chika. Not as adults. We look over. We glance. We move on.
You looked. Your eyes flickered with curiosity. You caught fireflies and asked if they had batteries. You unearthed a penny and asked if it was “treasure.” And without prompting, you knew discovery should be shared.” (pg. 90).
The adult world is a little boring these days. Being isolated as we continue to shelter in place, there is only so much we can do to be productive or relax within the confines of our homes. But, children can find things to marvel at on a walk around the block, in the backyard, in their bedrooms, or in the pages of a story. Engaging in their worlds of wonder can bring a little more innocence and fun to our adult experiences.
Albom’s words struck me as so true: “Children wonder at the world. Parents wonder at their children’s wonder. In so doing, we are all young together.” (pg. 91).