My husband started a family tradition the year before last, of writing wishes for the New Year for us all to pull out of a hat. The little wish that I drew, folded neatly at the bottom of the pile, read: Wonderment. My husband looked over my shoulder and said – I was hoping you’d get that one – you’re in need of a little of that in your life!
At first I was angry with him. Then, embarrassed. And then struck by a terrible sadness, as the realization dawned on me that it was true… I had become jaded, negative and dullened.
I no longer gasped at nature’s wonders or the things that have always made me stop and stare in awe. I had lost my sense of connectedness with place and the people around me – and ultimately, with myself.
And so cautiously, with baby-steps, I started to change how I looked at the world. I picked up my camera again and began to concentrate on the little things that had always caught my attention: a snail trail on the road under my feet on the morning walk to school; a rusty nail stuck out of a fence post; a pile of battered and discarded flyers blowing in the wind, discovered at one of our favourite walking-spots…
Slowly, the wonder started to come back. And much to my surprise (though it seems so obvious now) the more I looked, the more easily I found inspiration in everything around me.
This turning point in my current adult life by no means resolved all of the issues I’ve been struggling with since becoming a parent. The negative issues that can affect all new parents and especially afflict stay-at-home mums… the exhaustion, oh – the constant exhaustion! the boredom! The ground-hog-day feeling of doing the same tasks over and over and OVER again… The frustrations that accompany being with little people 24 hours a day and most importantly – the loss of our sense of self. But it did start to relieve some of that monotony; to scratch off the world-weary lens through which I’d been viewing the world and it did make me actively seek-out the beautiful in the mundane. And in the process of doing this, in re-finding the wonder, I started to find that side of myself that had been lost under the responsibilities and worries that had begun to pile up over the years…
The endless list of things we are supposed to achieve in our adult days – whether it is at home or at work, or both – can totally overwhelm us. It’s so easy when caring for our children, partners and in some cases, our extended family, to leave little room for ourselves. We can get so caught up in our daily routine – in the drudgery of the every day. It’s so easy to fall in to the trap of using every ounce of our energy in just getting through a day that we don’t leave space for the magic – or even – in just noticing the special out of the ordinary.
In not allowing wonder to wash over ourselves at moments throughout the day, we can also prevent our kids from finding it in their own lives. Such a precious gift: for our children to see the beauty in things; to appreciate that which cannot be bought; to really see the world around them and the people who inhabit it.
Children have a natural and instinctive sense of wonderment before it is drummed out of them in the process of growing-up… The ability to stop and stare… To want to leave the path and explore the unknown trail… To get caught-up for hours in playing with some pebbles and a plastic cup… To totally immerse themselves in a new topic of discovery.
I’ve had to remind myself that I should allow my children the space and the time to do this – to really encourage it, while they still have the time. Time, before their days get filled up with extra lessons and homework, exams and routines…
Because we, as adults, have to really work at cutting out all the ugliness and seeing the beauty that is around us – in noticing the little details of each day that make them different from the ones that will follow (my husband’s words there, not mine).
We have to work that little bit harder at connecting with place, with others and more importantly – with our selves.
And so, every day, I am trying to take a moment to pause, to slow down and to capture that little bit of wonder in the world around me before it whooshes past me in that all-too-quickly-passing moment and is lost.
Just as our children will grow up too quickly, before we’ve even had a chance to catch our breath…