There are always particular moments that stand out in the early years of our children that fill one with wonder, amazement and joy all combined. One such moment is those first tentative steps of the toddler, maybe around a year or a little more. You watch, eyes wide open, mouth dropping open in astonishment, as you see your little one letting go its hold of something, looking at you with eyes also wide open and sparkling, as if to say, ‘Here goes! I can do it!’
I still remember a remark in a physics textbook back in college days, in a section which analysed the mechanics of muscle movements. The writer had it all explained, adding a cynical comment on the illogic and ineffectiveness of the human upright design that it takes a whole year to stand. The implication: we should have stayed on all fours. I suppose he wanted to sound cleverer than the forces that created us. I felt like saying, ‘I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to stay crawling!’ But he must not have had children, experiencing the awe and joy of such moments for the child, taking its first steps in front of you…
…You wake out of your spellbound state, your heart leaps, you give encouragement, holding your breath in between, reaching out with your arms ready to receive your proud child, who seems also quite struck by the wonder of it. One step, two steps, three steps, plumps – then again, and again.
The miracle of childhood
We need to relish and nurture such moments more, with children and with ourselves. Not rush them – we’re always in a hurry – and not too quickly grab for the camera (in digital days the temptations are now much greater). Children live into and absorb our emotions, our joy, our being fully there for them, with them. That moment of standing – it’s such a miraculous time, a culmination of a year’s effort of will to stand upright, a courageous step in the exploration of the world, with hands now free. The energy and determination to achieve this uprightness, a hallmark of being human, is like an archetype for life. We touch I believe on a great ‘secret’, a spark of the human spirit which can give us strength throughout life: the courage to be ‘upright’ and take the next steps.
And the wonder itself: it’s a mediator to this world that is not all calculated and explained, fostering the imagination and an openness for something entirely new. No wonder one of the common word derivations of wonder and astonishment is from ‘thunder’, which comes from ‘Thor’, the Norse God of Thunder and Lightning, who achieved mighty deeds. We could say with ‘wonder’ there is the mighty input of the gods, or today we’d likely say ‘of spirit’. Another related word derivation is the German ‘Wonne’, which means great joy or deep soul-felt delight.
Yes, such moments of childhood wonder – they have a mix of all of these! And we adults can take inspiration from them as well.