From May 6, 2014
Once upon a time, a decade ago, I happened upon a magical land in Northern Ireland called Tollymore Forest Park. I inhaled the rich green, hoping it would permeate the dullness I faced elsewhere. I stepped lightly on perfectly placed stones, laid upon a frigidly clear river. That day, I was filled with a wonder I hadn’t known in years. A wonder that was lost with the distraction and busyness of adulthood. My heart hurts when I see a “grownup” who thinks he has all the answers and doesn’t revel in his smallness. I think that’s the beginning of the chasm of disconnect between a boy once filled with wonder, and a man filled with normal.
“…How I long for the years of my childhood, when life was uncluttered and free. Perhaps there’s a way to reprogram my goals and capture the me that was me.” ~Greg Asimakoupoulos
A few weeks ago, I kept seeing an article floating around Facebook, so I decided to read it. The gist of it was that parents should not do anything for their children that would try to “instill” wonder in them, rather, left alone and without the intervention of parental creativity (i.e.: crafts, cute bedrooms, fun toys, Disneyland vacations, etc.) that kids will “wonder” on their own. That is my summary of the article; I have no clue what it was called, nor do I have any desire to search for it because I thought it was rubbish. Okay, perhaps that was harsh. It was only half rubbish. I finished the article feeling guilty for making handprint trees with my kids, and for prancing them around Disneyland for two days. More than that, I felt discouraged with humanity’s ability to wonder.
Here’s the thing. I don’t want to feel guilty for playing with my kids or decorating their room. In fact, I want to wonder with them. I want to regain a bit of my childhood innocence and explore life afresh everyday. Who says that all of this stuff is just for kids? Let me invite you to the pleasant, wonder-filled, utopia of Sometimesland, where grownups get to be little again…sometimes.
A year ago, I stumbled upon this over-priced wooden plaque that was painted with these words from Peter Pan to John: “Do you want your adventure now, or would you like to have your tea first?” I HAD to have that silly plaque. Had to. Let me tell you, that was one of the best purchases of my life. It has taken myself, and many unassuming kiddos on magical dining room adventures. <Pause: I want to make it absolutely clear that this is not about finding wonder through parenthood. This example is merely the content of my own experience recapturing wonder. Unpause.> I am about to tell you the secret to my adventures; prepare yourself….Pick a magical vehicle (Jeeps can be pretty magical if you let them). Then, pick a destination like the jungle or the North Pole. Buckle up, ask someone to be the driver, and then take an adventure at your destination. Don’t be intimidated, it truly looks as simple as this: “Did you hear that? I think it was a monkey trying to sneak your lunch away.” The kids will take it from there. I promise you, if you do this ONE time, they will ask you to take an adventure with them everyday of the week. Sound annoyingly boring? Sometimes, yes. But it will keep you young, and in an age where kids don’t really have to have an imagination anymore, it allows them to have one anyway. Living with such simplicity and spontaneity is addicting.
“By filling the imagination with so many possibilities we kill the very delight each was intended to bring.” ~Ravi Zacharias
Hear me loudly when I say, I do not believe in spoiling children, and I am ashamed to say that mine have a nauseating amount of toys. I could write an entire post just about that, so I’ll leave it be for now. What I am saying is to find the balance between training your child to be a grownup, and retraining yourself to be a child. Wess Stafford explains this beautifully in his book, Too Small to Ignore. He describes scenarios with his own children, where he would spend time playing make-believe on the floor with them, and then he would lift them up into his own world where he would teach them how to do big people things, like bake cookies or sweep the floor. This is where I think adults struggle with that balance. I think we resist the freedom in letting loose, and letting our inner child come out. We let kids do kid things on their own, and we hastily teach them grownup things so they can do our chores for us.
Children aside, I am speaking only to grownups now. And I don’t mean that if you’re reading this at 60 years old that you can check out because you’re beyond the “grownup” stage. All of you. When was the last time that you let yourself find amazement and awe—wonder—in something? Allow yourself to shamelessly read classic literature like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Paint a picture. Lay in the grass and look for cloud animals. Do something that you love to do. Did you love soccer a decade ago, but haven’t kicked a ball since? Go to Target right now, and buy a freaking soccer ball. If the things that are filling your spare time are giving you renewed zeal for life, by all means, continue. But, if you’re bored from scrolling through people’s complaints and vacations on Facebook, take a break. Leave your phone in the house, slip on some flip flops, and go find your own Sometimesland. Dance in the rain. Lay in the flowers; they’ll pop back up. Climb a tree. Go for a drive. Rediscover you. No harm will come; only inspiration and joy, and perhaps even a bit of wonder.