One particular morning, my 4.5 y/o quivered with anticipation. She’d woken up early, before her “okay to wake” clock lit up, and she got dressed in the dark before coming out of her room. Special outfit –– gray jeans, tie-dyed shirt, polka dot sweater, and the key to the whole ensemble: knee-high shamrock socks.

It was St. Patrick’s Day, after all, and she and her classmates were all going to wear green!!! (punctuation hers)

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That was it –– no special snacks, activities, or parties. A normal daycare day, but with more green. And she was pumped.

She’s almost old enough to be disappointed by events like this, to realize when an experience vastly under-delivers on the anticipation. (You know, like basically all of this raw deal called “adulthood”)

But not quite. For now, the slightest deviation from the ordinary routine is exciting, novel, and celebratory in and of itself.

Watching the world through my children’s eyes, when I can manage it, makes me far less cynical and more hopeful. In a world dominated by spectacle, scandal, and doom-scrolling, it’s still possible to get excited about something as simple as wearing green with your friends.

Learning Each Other’s Languages

To appreciate my children’s perspectives and enjoy a dose of the wonderment with which they approach the world, I’ve had to learn a new language. Well, two languages—one for each of my children. I’ve learned that “eat mo” meant “oatmeal” for my eldest, at least for a season. I know to pick out whatever jumble of sounds currently means “blanket” for my youngest.

I spend significant time in an alternate reality with the confused [hybrids] of superhero traits and Disney characters they collect from playing with other children. I can pick out excellent “surprises” for my eldest’s rest time (RIP nap time; thanks, 2020), from the closet of 12 options we rotate. (Surprise!) And I somehow manage to get energized for the 457th dance party kicking off with the classic banger “Wheels on the Bus.”

Understanding and communication are at the heart of some of the first “eyes light up” moments I can remember with each of my children. The look of wonder and satisfaction when they make some motion or noise, and then realize that an adult understands what they’re trying to “say.”

Learning each other’s language was particularly easy during the depths of the pandemic, when I knew literally every experience or input my daughter might be referencing. There was virtually no milestone I missed, and I found myself much better at comprehending whatever she was trying to communicate. I was more attuned to what she was discovering, and better able to catch the unpredictable instances when her eyes would sparkle as she noticed a new sliver of the world for the first time.

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Sharing These Moments with Others

Although emerging from the pandemic remains often shaky at best, my children and I do now spend less than 100% of each day together—to everyone’s immense benefit. This comes with some loss, as I no longer know all of her references or experiences. And the moments when she’s exhilarated by learning something new, not all of those include me anymore.

But there’s a gentle beauty in sharing these experiences with her other caregivers, and I’m also finding that, overall, this arrangement means she gets more of these moments. This is a tradeoff I’ll gladly make.

Since I don’t spend every waking minute with my kids, I see them grow in fits and spurts. For days and days they pretend to read, chattering away with a book held upside down. Then one day, she’s reading. Like actually, reading. My kid! Sure, maybe your kid has done this too. But my kid, my kid is learning to read!

It’s incredible. Someone you’ve raised –– potentially changed their diapers, or even borne them inside your body –– developing entirely new skills, new thoughts, new ways of thinking. Sure, they’re not the first ever to do this. But seeing the first time ever for them is still fantastic, magical, mystical.

One day, they take the coat they’ve been wrapping around their head for months and suddenly put it on “by self.” And the look on their face when they do…

By letting go and letting my kids learn on their own, to learn from others, they get to surprise themselves and me that much more. I get to enjoy the things they do and learn on their own, however I end up experiencing them.

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Pride and Beauty in the Everyday

I could go on and on about the epiphanies and everyday revelations I’ve experienced with my children. But the particulars aren’t the point, at least not in a relatable, communicable way. The surprise of specific discoveries isn’t unique to my children. But being present for the discoveries of a tiny human you know so well –– that’s irreplaceable.

Through them, the everyday and the mundane become magical and fresh again, even for a few moments. Thanks to my children, I’m remembering how to find delight in things as small as wearing green with my friends.

For them, the world is new. With them, we find the world anew.

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