Wonder is such a strange word to consider in the midst of a global pandemic. And yet, how much more do you and I need to feel wonder now, more than ever? For me in this time, children have been my gateway to accessing wonder, hope, joy, laughter, tears, feeling human. I don’t have children living at home anymore, and quarantine has made my house even quieter than usual–it’s just my husband, Chris, and me. While I am incredibly grateful for his love and presence, and even his occasional playfulness, it’s not the same as when we had young kids in our home.
Having more time to ponder while staying at home has given me the space to recognize an emerging theme for me at this stage in life–to look to children to teach me about love. Two months ago, in what I didn’t realize then would be the last Sunday morning gathering for the foreseeable future for our spiritual community, I was sitting in my chair, listening to our guest musician, when my friend’s five-year-old daughter crawled past everyone in our row to come show me that she’d lost her first tooth. After expressing appropriate awe, I patted the empty seat next to me and said she could sit there if she wanted. After getting a nod from her dad, still in sight across the room, she leaned against me as we listened to the music together. Every few seconds she would look up at me with a big grin, poking her tongue through the empty space where her tooth had been. How could my heart not melt?
Another young friend has included me in Instagram stories of her little girls that she shares with close friends. In what is becoming an almost daily occurrence, Chris walks into a room to find out where the squeals and laughter are coming from, and he finds me on my phone, watching their delight play out in everything from a bouncy trampoline to the hunt for tiny wildflowers hidden in the grass. Another friend’s daughter finds a way to join in her dad’s Facebook Live videos, the animated faces she makes at the screen the perfect foil for his serious words, providing a playful reminder of the importance of holding a whole range of emotions.
My young friends are an important part of my community and regularly invite me to more curiosity, playfulness, and expansive love.
On that same Sunday gathering pre-pandemic, I walked by the cluster of young kids who tend to run as a pack after the gathering is done. One of them was crying, so I stopped to ask what was wrong:
I – I want to be Elsa, but they won’t let me.
E – We can have 2 Elsa’s.
Me – How about being Anna? And then maybe you can take turns being Elsa?
I – But I want to be Elsa because she’s powerful!
Me – Well, Anna is powerful too. Actually, YOU all are powerful. (I might have had an image playing in my mind of Elizabeth Warren making her pinky promises with little girls when I said this, cue my own tears.)
E – You mean because we have love!
Me – Yes! Love is the most powerful!
I – (looks a little uncertain, but is not crying anymore)
Moments like these have become more common as I take the time to slow down and show an interest in their lives. At this stage in life, I realized I would need to be intentional about creating opportunities to be together with younger people. Last summer we spent many afternoons together when I hosted pool parties at our house. Our pool became “Miss Janet’s pool” to Chris’s chagrin, not because I own it, but because I was in the water with them, throwing dive toys, playing Marco Polo, and trying to watch every time one of them yelled, “Miss Janet, watch this!”
Here’s the thing I’m learning. Kids don’t care about the things that I can waste so much energy on—the thoughts that take me out, questioning my worth or competence. They see another human being like them, who they love and who loves them in return. It’s really that simple. What if you and I approached our fellow humans like this? What if we acted like it was really that simple? I’m going to keep watching my young friends, inviting their childlike wonder rub off on me.
Janet Stark is a woman learning to bless her depth and sensitivity. She is grateful for the deep love she shares with her husband, Chris, and their kids and grandkids. Janet loves curling up with a good book, trying new recipes on her friends and family, and enjoying long conversations with friends over a cup of really good coffee. She is a life-long lover of words and writes about her experiences here.