“Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” (Maya Angelou)
I was on holiday last week in Norfolk, England.
My entire family was having a week away together.
Ages ranged from nearly 89 years to 9 months.
There were, in total, 18 of us.
The children had one main ambition for the week:
Go to the beach.
So, at the first opportunity, we duly packed the cars with buckets and spades and all the other paraphernalia essential to a beach day.
For me, this essential gear was a book.
I planned to spend the day alternating between watching the waves and reading.
My book nearly made it into my bag.
But not quite.
Because I suddenly had a thought.
The children were so excited about the beach day but probably not because they were looking forward to watching the waves and reading.
And the idea of this annual holiday is to spend time together.
So what if I tried to see the day through children’s eyes?
My book was relegated to the shelf.
We got to the beach, set up camp and the first thing my 4 year old niece said was,
“Aunty Memem (me), come here please – come and dig a hole with me.”
Come and dig a hole.
Remembering that I was doing the day the children’s way, I pushed away the thought that digging a hole would involve kneeling on the sand, which would mean my jeans getting covered in sand.
I pushed away the “Why?” that immediately popped into my mind at the suggestion of digging a hole.
Picking up a spade, I went to dig a hole.
The children didn’t need to know why, so, today, neither did I.
As we shovelled away, I realised that the kids maybe did need to know why, their why was just limited to the present.
Why dig a hole?
Because it is fun!
Who cares that, objectively speaking, digging a hole that would soon be washed away by the sea was fairly pointless.
Certainly not the children.
The point was, we were having fun.
And I do mean ‘we’ – I enjoyed it as much as they did.
Next thing on the ‘through children’s eyes’ agenda that day was to bury someone in the sand.
That someone, you won’t be surprised to know, was me.
By this time, my jeans were sandy anyway.
Soon, my t-shirt was, too.
Why bury someone in sand?
Because it is fun!
Lying there, covered in sand, unable to move, watching the kids shovel and giggle as they buried me, I had to agree…
Next up was dig a tunnel.
Or furrow, as I corrected my niece when I realised that the tunnel would have no roof.
My capacity for ‘through children’s eyes’ has a limit.
“Aunty Memem, what’s a furrow?”
Which meant that, next, we were hunting for shells to use as seeds to plant in the furrow.
We set about planting the seeds, then I noticed that my niece had stopped planting.
So there I was, kneeling on a beach, busily planting shells.
A through children’s eyes day loses its appeal somewhat when there are no children.
I looked at my niece.
She was kneeling by the furrow, looking along the beach with an expression of terror on her face.
She was crying.
I turned and followed her gaze.
Quite a long way down the beach, I saw what had grabbed her attention.
It was a dog.
And she is terrified of dogs.
One minute, she was happily planting shells in a furrow, the next she was paralysed by fear.
Because of something that was a long way away.
But might come closer.
Or, as I said to her, the dog might not come this way at all.
Slowly, she looked away from the dog and carried on busying herself with the furrow.
She was having fun again and she forgot about the dog.
Which didn’t come anywhere near us anyway.
For a few moments, my niece had stopped enjoying herself because she was so worried about something that might happen.
An ironic twist, perhaps, on ‘through children’s eyes’.
She was doing what adults do.
‘Through grown-ups eyes’ might be a better way to put it.
How often do we let worry about things that might happen stop us from enjoying what is happening.
“We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.” (Bill Watterson)
Maybe we should all decide to see things through children’s eyes once in a while.
In fact, I’m not sure there is any ‘maybe’ about it.