Being a parent means rediscovering your inner child. Often I look at my daughter and wonder what is going on in that mind of hers — the wheels as they turn and turn. A child’s imagination is something to envy. There is innocence in a child’s naïveté. Their curiosity is magical. Their cynicism is non-existent. The world is new – everyday. Every morning she wakes up. Every night she goes to bed. She needs not even dream a new dream. There will be newness as she yawns and rolls out of bed and tugs on her mom and dad’s bed cover, clamoring for pancakes.
Going into parenthood, your expectations, and one that is true but not wholly solid, is that becoming a parent translates into having to shed some of your childish ways and grow up because you are now the responsible party. If there are two stomachs growling for breakfast, you feed the little one first.
But there are two sides to that coin. The other side is remembering, on a certain level, what it feels like to think like a child.
1 Corinthians 13:11 states:
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”
Don’t get me wrong. I understand this saying and the context for it — you grow up, you learn the ways of the world, you put behind your ignorance and immaturity, you understand reasoning and logic and how to apply it, etc. At the same, one should never put the ways of childhood entirely behind them; and, as a parent you cannot. Part of being a parent is getting down on the level of your kids.
The author Christopher Moore once said, “Children see magic because they look for it.”
And they do, don’t they?
One of the activities I do with my daughter every night is story time. It is not simply the act of reading an already written story. I have her create and shape a narrative, characters, setting, and plot with me. She is my co-pilot in Brainstorming 101. It is more akin to what the two of us do prior to bed when we are downstairs sitting in the living room floor, drawing. We make something from scratch and I always make a point to tell her, no matter what it is she drew, you just made something no one else in the world has ever made.
Maybe she drew a whale.
“Oh, but plenty of people have drawn a whale,” you say, and that is true — almost.
But no one has ever drawn a whale exactly like she has, or you have, or I have for that matter — unless they traced it exactly, in which case, that wouldn’t be drawing, that would be copying. On that note, drawing daily is something I have not done since I was a kid. Now I draw everyday with my daughter, and I find myself asking the question: why is it I stopped drawing all of a sudden? Is there a more stress free activity than drawing — other than running?
While it was never my intention to peer into her head, these nighttime stories have nevertheless become a way for me to see those wheels turning — and it is fun and her story alone. Just the other night, for example, I asked my daughter what three things she wanted to include in her nighttime story.
“Mommy,” was number one.
“Ummmm, Ariel,” she said, referring to Ariel from Little Mermaid, a movie I have watched at least 30 times now, usually at 5 AM.
“One more thing to include,” I tell her. “It can be anything. How about a chili cheese hot dog?”
“Noooooo,” she laughs, thinking I’m silly.
“Okay, then. No chili cheese hot dog. What then?”
“Ummm.” She turns her head sideways and shifts her mouth, thinking. “A pig!”
That’s close enough to a chili cheese hot dog, I think.
“And where will our story take place?”
“Ocean,” she says without a moment’s pause. “On a choo choo.”
“OK, so no ocean but on a train instead…”
“Just the ocean?”
“Noooo. Choo choo in the ocean.”
“Okay, so Ariel, Mommy, and a pig are on a train in the ocean. What next?”
“And a shark approaches.”
“Motzie, what?” (Motzie is our dog)
“Motzie is a shark?”
“Nooooo. Shark try eat Ariel!”
“Yes, I follow,” I reply.
“Motzie eat shark.”
“So Motzie is the hero?”
“Motzie protects Ariel?”
“Yes! And Mommy, Ariel, pig go choo choo.”
“Into the sunset?”
“Yes! Motzie eat shark, ride choo choo too.”
It was the great artist Pablo Picasso that said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
I think the answer is to become a parent — at least then we can all run around again, barefoot, remembering what the world looks like through a child’s eyes: beautiful and new, full of endless possibilities.
Children, they are the lucky ones, aren’t they?