Children often teach us valuable lessons we never knew before… but more often, they teach us lessons that we have, tragically, forgotten.
Sometimes I like to think that I see the world “the way it ought to be seen,” as though I have some kind of wisdom that gives me the tools to “live the fulfilled life,” so to speak. But as I sat on my couch this afternoon, watching my three-month-old son interact with my husband, I began to realize just how far I have strayed from living that “fulfilled” life.
The world from the eyes of a little baby is in so many ways, a more accurate perspective than the world seen from the eyes of us adults.
Babies know very little about their world – almost nothing, in fact. But somehow, they seem to interact with and react to their world through responses we grown adults have neglected; they embrace the skills that we’ve learned to forget.
Babies don’t see color for the first four months of their lives. They don’t understand words, and can only see up to a distance of a mere 15 inches for months of their existence. But they eagerly welcome the comfort and embrace of the person who holds them near. They don’t know what being a human is, and yet, they delight in the fuzzy outline and voice of a human.
Babies see us smile at them, and they learn to smile back. They hear us talk, and tirelessly try to talk back to us – exploring the noises they can make with their vocal chords and imitating our facial expressions.
They study things for hours on end – trying to make sense of the puzzling world around them. They work for what they don’t understand, they cry for help when they need comfort, they welcome the warm milk of their mother like it’s a stream of gold goodness – heartily adopting the world of food as we ought to adopt it – with enthusiasm, delight, eagerness and reverence. Babies snuggle shamelessly against what they love, whether it’s a blanket, stuffed bunny, or their parent’s hug. Babies do not apologize for their curiosity – they are eager to learn, and often get frustrated when they can’t complete a feat fast enough to keep up with their learning minds. (Like rolling over or crawling.) And though this may sound odd at first, babies unashamedly allow the sweet and precious sleep that we all too often deny ourselves on account of “being” or “doing,” to drape itself over them like the warm breeze of a lazy summer’s eve.
So I had to ask myself:
Why have we lost these abilities? Why don’t we delight in even the shadows of humanity that babies do? Why don’t we see semblances of humans – “outlines” so to speak – and welcome them into our hearts with the innocent delight that babies so effortlessly possess? Why don’t we study our own world, constantly asking questions, constantly probing the corners of our universe to seek the beauty and constancy that babies seem to find? Why don’t we love what we don’t quite understand, even if instinctively, we know it’s good? Why are we ashamed to seek a shoulder to cry on, or a hug from a loved one? Why do we give up on things we want to do, when babies strive endlessly towards the goals that further their little purposes? Why do we abuse food, when instead we should be appreciating the creative and complicated possibilities it holds -- treating it as a rarest nectar? And, of course, why are we ashamed to feel tired and worn out – punishing ourselves for that extra-long nap because x, y, or z has been on an ancient, tattered and neglected to-do list for so long?
As I sat there quietly and thought about these things, I realized that somehow, all of the good ways of living – the beautiful approaches to the life we live—are embodied in the tiniest, frailest, and most unsuspecting little beings there are; babies. These miniature humans dig deep into the colorful, spectacular, mysterious, rich soil of this world, and there, they discover the treasure that we have carelessly buried. Thank goodness the world gives us children to unearth that treasure for us one last time; to remind us just what kind of ethereal goodness we are allowing ourselves to miss.