childhood & creation: this sacred everyday
“Here is your ice cream cone,” he declares. Satisfied and soapy, he hands me a cup full of bubbles.
He eyes me intently, underneath wet curls.
“What flavor is it?” I know to ask.
The joy sparks: she sees it, too!
“It is chocolate-ish strawberry vanilla. It is served in a cone and a dish.”
“You are KIDDING,” I gape. “That is my favorite flavor in the world.”
I slurp and snarf, devour the whole airy nothing in front of his damp beaming face, which dazzles into delight.
“Ah-ha!” he shrieks, splashing. “Yes! We will make some more.”
He is three years old. He knows what adults have forgotten. Make-believe and truth are both sides of imagination’s coin.
Creation is our work of everyday.
Here we are at bathtime. The Spirit still hovers over the water. Faucets are waterfalls, bubbles are beards, cups splash with soup, anything becomes a boat.
Too often adults are mere spectators, flimsy facsimiles of what it means to witness. Distracted by phones, anxious by un-dones, already rushing to the next, tired and dull.
We know; we do not wonder. The fire fizzled out.
We forget that the ordinary vibrates at a pitch only children can hear.
Who needs dinner – the train track to the North Pole is nearly finished! I didn’t hear you – we were building this rocket! You can’t move the cushions – that fort is the bears’ home and they need to sleep there tonight!
The day may start formless and empty, but lo – here comes the Holy again, moving upon the face of the deep. Then fiat: let there be light!
Imagination sizzles to spark and what we see as cluttered chaos is the beginning of fantastic and if we could just step back to behold the work – and them! the sweet sacred marvel of them! these impossible children, carbon and atoms and cells colliding to make toes and elbows, hands and brains spilling with ideas – our mature minds would explode if we could capture the possibility of everything, let alone sink to our knees and whisper thanks to the Almighty for the gifts of these children, this day, our life.
God saw that it was Good.
Behold is the best word, the way to wonder. Everything beloved is held within (childhood, too): awakening and awe, mystery and faith, hope and trust, incarnation and resurrection.
Behold the bathtime, sopping towels on the floor and twenty plastic toys left in the tub and water dripping down the walls again.
Behold the afternoon, grass-skidded knee stains and sweaty flushed cheeks and dirt-streaked kitchen, air electric in their wake.
Behold the winter, front door flanked with snowpant piles and soaking gloves and woolen hats curled up like grey wet dogs.
Behold the Saturday, table strewn with watercolors, board game dice, Lego pieces, marker tops, two baseball cards, one scratched CD.
Behold childhood. Behold creation.
Sing a new song as far as the note stretches for each one, fading so soon into adolescence, a modulated key, complex and challenging, harmony and discord, resolving someday into full adulthood, legato long and rich if we are lucky.
But even the smoothest sweet cannot compare to that bright beginning. The first few notes when anything is possible.
When all the world is wonder. Each bathtime long enough to launch a thousand ships.
“Every genuine inspiration…contains some tremor of that ‘breath’ with which the Creator Spirit suffused the work of creation from the very beginning. Overseeing the mysterious laws governing the universe, the divine breath of the Creator Spirit reaches out to human genius and stirs its creative power…the human being is able to experience in some way the Absolute who is utterly beyond.” (St. John Paul II, Letter to Artists. With thanks to Katrina.)
I’m weeping joyful tears over here! I’ve been an early childhood educator for 10 years and had my first baby 6 weeks ago! You so beautifully articulated what we attempt to do in toddler classrooms everyday: be fully present and immerse ourselves in the wonder that children find in everyday tasks. Although my own baby is not quite old enough for these experiences yet, I’m finding immense joy in just gazing upon the amazing creation that he is! The moments in my day feel so much more sacred when I truly take the time to be present with my son (in all his happy, fussy, or sleepy times). I especially appreciate all your prayers for newborns; thank you for your words. They’ve helped make this grace filled time in my life even more beautiful!
Beautiful! Thank you so much, mama!
Love this. I’ve been much too distracted by my phone lately. Working on changing that and being more involved in their play and wonder.
Oh I want this so much. I enjoyed it immensely the first time round d. I ask for your prayers on conceiving anothebeautiful baby to nurture and watch them grow in awe and wonder! Much love and thanks xx
This post gave me a few pangs of guilt and regret because I really feel like I have lost that imagination that I had as a child. My almost 5 year old is completely immersed in that pretend play stage, and he frequently asks me to join him. But I get caught up in the stuff that needs to be done and the management of my 4 young ones’ needs including infant twins. I feel like I have forgotten how to play like he does; in fact I remember losing my interest in those sort of games when I was an early teen. Thank you for reminding me how important it is. I wish I could find a way to make that ability to imagine come back. What do you do when it doesn’t come naturally anymore?
RIGHT there with you, Sarah. It has felt like gritting teeth lately whenever my kids ask me to play. I always have a thousand things to do, running behind, overwhelmed, etc. Sometimes I have to physically stick my phone/computer in another room and just make myself sit down with them, ignoring the clutter/dinner/dishes for ten minutes and just work on being present with them. Even five minutes of make-believe brings the spark back to their eyes, I find. And then I can stretch it to ten another day – like prayer or exercise, the experts always say a little is better than nothing!
I think it helps to find whatever part of play you love and encourage connecting with them there, too. I love drawing or coloring with them, so I don’t mind doing imaginative art stuff with kids. Playing pretend with toys isn’t my fav but I try to play along a little when they invite me.
Also, it helps me to name when we’re in a season of surviving vs. thriving. Pregnancy is pure survival for me because I’m so sick. I can do nothing but the bare minimum, and I have no energy for playing with them. But now that our youngest is 5 months old, I’m starting to see that we are emerging into what could be a season of thriving. Knowing that right now won’t last forever is a lesson I’m constantly learning. And when you have your proverbial hands full, it’s important to know that this week/month/year is only a sliver of their childhood.
Peace & prayers to you!