“Dad, can I bring my mudball inside?” – Jacob
“Ooo, dad, I need a mudball too!” – Oliver
You’d have to have been there to see how excited Jacob was about his mudball. We had been out hiking down by the creek a day after a rain, and he, well, made a mudball and carried it around with him. I’m not used to finding mud all that exciting. To me, mud is something that my car can get stuck in, that my boots can drag into the house, that needs to be suppressed by a little gravel on top.
But to Jacob, he was holding a ball of excitement, of adventure, of discovery. And Oliver wanted in on the fun!
Jacob wasn’t thinking about consequences of bringing a mudball indoors, because he didn’t need to. He wasn’t visualizing the damage it could cause, the time of cleaning it up, or even the fact that a mudball doesn’t really stay a mudball permanently. He just wanted to carry his ball of excitement with him.
Being a parent means being a teacher, an example, and a leader. It is fine for Jacob to not think about the consequences of bringing a mudball into the house at age 6, but part of my duty as a parent is to make sure he thinks about consequences by the time he gets behind the wheel of a car. As we grow up, we are shown, taught, and prodded into thinking about consequences of our choices: getting good grades in school, thinking about the impression the clothes we wear to a job interview might leave, worrying about what people think about us when we talk in front of a group. We take on real responsibilities when we leave childhood, and the consequences of our actions become more significant.
But where’s the “off” switch? Shouldn’t there be a way for us to wonder about bringing the mudball indoors, too?
There was a time in our lives when we didn’t care one bit about whether we were wearing fashionable clothes, making a good impression, or doing things the “right” way. After being in the mindset of taking careful responsibility over life for so many years, it’s hard to re-discover that earlier time.
A colleague forwarded a little speech about Thanksgiving. It contained, “Those who live in thanksgiving daily have a way of opening their eyes and seeing the wonders and beauties of this world as though seeing them for the first time.”
This is something children know how to do, and we adults have often forgotten, because we are too busy worrying about dirty floors and stained curtains to see the potential for fun in mud.
I am convinced that, just as important as being responsible, is learning how to let go, to let our hearts feel peace and joy as if a child. We can’t open our eyes and see the wonders of this world if we’re too busy worrying about convincing someone else to vote for our preferred candidate, about saying things perfectly, about being right.
There’s beauty in that daily commute in a car or subway. Look around, and you might see kids with their noses pressed to the window, even if it’s mostly black tunnel outside. There’s wonder in that business flight, in the mud, in the doctor’s office waiting room.
When I see people using insults in a discussion thread on the Internet, I am saddened, because it means they have lost sight of the wonder of being able to communicate with and understand a person thousands of miles away, instantly, and are more worried about their position looking good, or are unable to see the beauty in a person that thinks differently.
I once had this conversation with Jacob in an airplane, probably surrounded by people impatiently waiting to turn on their electronic devices:
“Jacob, we are in the air!”
“Jacob, we’re flying!”
“Dad, I don’t know that I’ve ever been a butterfly before!”
I hope we can all find ways to be a butterfly more often.