A mom and a daughter standing in a field as the baby girl holds a flower up to her moms face

My childhood consisted of hunting for “pill bugs” in the grass in our side yard, playing kickball games in our cul-de-sac until the sun went down and riding the single-loop water slide at our neighborhood pool, over and over again. This was the routine summer after summer after summer.

Childhood doesn’t last forever. When I reached my teenage years, life was about winning volleyball games, passing pre-calculus tests and studying for the SAT. At college, the all-you-can-eat cafeteria, proximity to the beach and themed dorm events helped bring me back to childlike wonder, but social media was also increasing in popularity. Looking for wonder and then documenting it online became a sort of contest. Wonder was no longer an end in and of itself. 

A few months after I graduated, I got an internship in event planning. I worked long hours, trying to pacify a boss who wasn’t always understanding or kind. Life consisted of work and evening trips to the gym in a futile attempt to manage my stress levels. There was no wonder in my life; there was no time.

There was no wonder in my life; there was no time.

Eventually, I got married, and we bought a house. Then, I got pregnant and gave birth to my daughter. In the first three months of my daughter’s life, I considered the day successful if we went on a half-hour walk, watching her suck on her green pacifier as she looked up at the leaves of every tree that we passed.

A few months later, I added in trips to the grocery store most days to buy something to cook for dinner. She was 5 months old when I put her in the cart at the grocery store for the first time—her neck barely strong enough to support her head—smiling and kicking her legs back and forth as I pushed her around the store. Then, a few months later, I started to stop at the park that we passed on our walks. I would take her out of the stroller and hold her in my lap while we swung, a smile on her face as her body relaxed in my arms. 

That is how we spent that first year. When she turned 1 and crawled on top of our kitchen table to take a bite out of her cake as we sang “Happy Birthday” to her, there were tears in my eyes. It had been the best year of my life, and yet, I had spent nearly all of it within a three-mile radius of my house. 

My daughter is 3 now, and although I have noticed her sense of wonder since those first early walks in her stroller, her ability to communicate that wonder continues to grow. Recently, she has talked to me about the (growing) rock collection she keeps in the backseat of our car, gifted me a red leaf that she found outside and squealed at the grocery store when the cashier handed her a sheet of stickers. She has asked to walk on the “bridge” (which is really just a path through the flowerbeds), that connects the parking lot to the entryway of our favorite coffee shop and pushed dirt together to make a home “for the ants” at a park recently. 

I have noticed her sense of wonder since those first early walks in her stroller, her ability to communicate that wonder continues to grow.

Most notably, though, was the day when a family of “pill bugs” appeared at our doorstep. I stretched out my daughter’s hand, and then, I bent down and carefully lifted one of the bugs into my daughter’s palm. Her mouth dropped open and her eyes widened as she watched it curl itself into a ball. I told her about how I used to hunt for the same kind of bugs in the side yard of our house. We watched it for a few minutes, curling and uncurling, but never leaving my daughter’s hand.

“Mom, can I bring it inside?” my daughter asked. 

I nodded, and then, I opened our front door and my daughter walked inside with the bug on her still-outstretched palm. I found a plastic container from our kitchen to house it, and I was surprised at the happiness I felt the next morning when we checked on our bug and it was still alive. 

Motherhood has given me a new set of eyes—eyes that see the world the way my daughter sees it, eyes that notice the bugs and the rocks and red leaves. Perhaps, it is not accurate to call them “new” eyes because I had those eyes once, when I was a girl, before I lost them to the stressors of the world, life and my own desires to achieve and perform. 

Motherhood has given me a new set of eyes—eyes that see the world the way my daughter sees it.

My daughter gave me my old eyes back; being her mom has brought me back to childlike wonder.

How can we, as adults, learn from the whimsy and wonder of children? What is something about your childhood self that you’d like to embrace more often?

Image via Margaret Stokman

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