by Naomi Goldberg
I’m told that my kids will outgrow it all: their clothes, their toys, their constant need for Mommy. I’m told that before I know it, they’ll no longer be babies, but children and teenagers. I’m told (or warned, really), “Little children, little problems. Big children, big problems.”
What I worry about is different. Shoes, clothes, discipline styles– these can all be replaced and refined. I’m afraid that my kids will outgrow something more important: their optimism, their excitement for life.
Because right now, my one-year-old is the most confident, optimistic person I know. He smiles at everyone and waves when they smile back. He makes friends with strangers on airplanes and hugs anyone who opens their arms. His world is a good place, a place where he’s guaranteed a warm welcome (and bottle, too).
My other boys are different; their life experiences have been colored by sibling rivalry and friends who don’t share. Their optimism is less visible, not as magnetic. It’s more an attitude (“Life’s an adventure”) than an assumption (“Everyone’s here to take care of me”).
And yet the way my older kids wake up each morning, eager to explore, still amazes me. No matter how early it is (and it’s often 5 a.m.), they’re prepared for adventure. Sometimes I participate in their adventures, organizing outings to the park and other wonderlands. Other adventures I’m forced to condemn, such as their efforts to put rocks in the toilet or flood the kitchen floor.
Regardless of what they’re trying to do, my kids are confident they can succeed. Sometimes this is touching (“Mommy, today I’m gonna catch that green lizard!”), and sometimes less so (“I kicked him because he caught the lizard first”). But it’s always an inspiration.
It’s a kind of magic, I think, the way kids see the world. When I’m in a bad mood, I need more than roly-polys to cheer me up. An ice cream cone? Sure, it’s a nice treat, but hardly the thrill of a lifetime. I’ve lost the ability to see how a band-aid can transform a painful scrape into a badge of courage.
Maybe it’s all in what you choose to focus on. Half-empty or half-full? Although wars have been waged over whose sippy cup has more juice, these fights don’t last long. There are too many exciting things to do (“Look– a new hot wheels car!”) to waste time fighting.
As my kids grow from babies to children to teenagers, I hope they’ll keep some of this magic. When they’re “big children” struggling with “big problems”– cliques, social pressure, feeling excluded– I hope that this optimism helps them through.