Last night, my three oldest children slept in the living room, tucked away in homemade forts constructed of sheets, blankets, and clothes pins. They were excited as they snuggled down in their imaginary castles for the night with hopes to wake to our first snowfall of this winter. They were not disappointed.
This morning, a little earlier than I would have preferred, they came into my room bursting with excitement over the six inches of white magic that was blanketing the ground. They talked rapidly as they made their plans for hours of play in the snow: sledding down the hill they discovered last year; snow, sugar, and food coloring; the biggest snowman they’ve ever built.
We went to get the two-year-old from her crib and tried to explain to her what had happened overnight. She smiled as I dressed her, and jabbered along trying to contribute to the conversation. After changing her, I took her to the window to show her what we failed to explain. Two is young enough that she doesn’t remember snow from last winter and old enough to experience it in a new way. As I put her on the window sill, she abruptly stopped what she was saying. Her mouth opened, her eyes widened, and she gasped. If I could have understood her, I imagine she might have said something like, “Oh! THAT’S snow, Mama!”
Children help us adults enjoy the glories and wonders of God’s creation. They bring satisfaction and awe to the things to which our senses have become dull. They remind us to slow down and appreciate the common grace and blessings of this world, this life.
If left to myself, I might have seen the snow as beautiful for a moment, but it likely would have quickly morphed into an inconvenience. I can’t get to the grocery store when I want to go. Bible study and church will be canceled. Snow needs to be shoveled. It is cold outside!
Children bring satisfaction and awe to the things to which our senses have become dull.
But for my children, snow is a blank canvas of possibilities and opportunities waiting to be discovered. How big can they make a snowman before it collapses? How fast can they run in the snow? How high will the sled take them when they become airborne?
All my life, birds have flown around me just as, I’d speculate, they have flown around your little corner of the world. Before I had children, every once in a while, I might have stopped to take notice of a big male cardinal strutting around in his bright red coat or maybe an Eastern bluebird with his magnificent blue back and contrasting rusty stomach.
But because of my children, I have become an avid (albeit amateur) bird watcher. They help me to curiously examine these interesting creatures in many different ways. My two-year-old will see a bird, any regular, unimpressive bird, and can’t help but make sure I take note of the fantastical creature that just flew in front of us. And she’s right. That small living creature covered in feathers and supported in flight by wings is something deeply imaginative and wonderful. My six-year-old sees a bird and wonders about its family and home. She creates stories about how that particular bird came to us and what the bird will do when she leaves our feeder. My eight-year-old notices the beauty of each bird’s markings and how they serve a purpose. My ten-year-old marvels at their ability to fly (noting his own inability to do so) and tracks how many of each kind of bird he has seen that day.
What started a few years ago with a small collection of field guides for our homeschooling, slowly grew into a peaceful family hobby. In the last year, we acquired several types of bird feeders and enjoy watching the variety of these feathered creatures who come to feast. We squeal with delight when we see a new bird at our feeder for the first time. For a few weeks, we watched a badly hurt female Cardinal return almost daily to eat at our feeder as she healed from whatever type of fight she seemed to have lost. We appreciate the beauty of the brown Carolina Wren and the gray Tufted Titmouse even though their feathers are not bold colors like some of the others in their class. Birds started out as not much more than part of our science curriculum but have brought my family together to marvel at God’s artistry and imagination.
Similarly, our reasons for reading as a family have changed tremendously over the years. When my oldest was a toddler, I read to him because I thought that’s what good mothers do. Then I realized that it was beneficial for his language development. But over time I found myself enjoying the stories with him in a way that I, a lifelong reader, had never enjoyed stories before. We read now to see the beauty in the stories, not to accomplish a task or make sure we’ve finished any curriculum.
So this winter, this year, I hope I will not be too grown up to let my children help awaken my wonder. I hope when they are ready to go out to play again in this snow and the next, I won’t think about the amount of laundry we’re creating or that I haven’t gotten dinner prepped. I hope we’re reading the Chronicles of Prydain together, I won’t point out any moral lessons or new vocabulary words but that we’ll enjoy the story for the sake of our imaginations. And I hope every time I see a bird this year that I’ll see it as a creature that doesn’t make sense to me but is clothed in beauty and wonder.