Sometimes being a parent is totally awesome. Other times it’s a whole lot of work, and maybe even a little (or more than a little) icky, but for today I want to focus on the awesome parts.
One of the things that makes being a parent awesome is the way that it forces you to look at the world through new eyes. As my daughter Hannah gets older, I find that her perspective changes and matures. No longer is she a lisping toddler who mispronounces words and believes that I know everything. As an eight-year-old she has insights she didn’t have before, asks questions she didn’t ask before, and considers how I’ll react to her words before she shares them.
Recently, Hannah told me that she’s been thinking about questions with no answers. She’s pondering life’s mysteries, my child. For example, she’s wondering:
- “Why am I me, and not you?”
- “How come you’re my mom, instead of someone else’s mom?”
- “Why do the mountains go up, and not down?”
There really are no answers. It’s humbling to me that my child is now sophisticated enough to understand that.
There was a time in my life when I pondered the same sorts of questions. I wondered if what I think of as blue is the same thing that other people think of as blue. Did some people see blue as orange, and vice versa? I wondered about worlds that were too small, or too big, for us to see. I wondered why some names were girls’ names, and some names were boys’ names, and some names were both. I wondered what a soul looked like.
The truth is that I don’t ponder those questions so much anymore. The petty details of grown-up life take up all of my mental space. Instead of thinking about life’s mysteries, I think about what I have to buy at the grocery store, what appointments are in my calendar this week, about the fact that it’s Hannah’s library day tomorrow so we need to put her books in her backpack. I think about home renovations and cooking dinner and how much money I have in my bank account. I think about work deadlines and summer vacation plans and on and on and on. I am always thinking, but I am very rarely pondering.
Spending time with my daughter right now forces me to slow down and shift my thinking. It reminds me of all those questions that filled so many of my thoughts as a child. The questions that were just as much about who I am and how I exist in the world as they were about the fathomless mysteries of an infinite universe. When we contemplate the vastness of life, time and space, we can’t help but consider our place in it, and remember how very small we really are. These questions are the stuff of wonder and majesty and the divine.
And so, as my daughter shares her questions with me, I agree with her and say Yes, you’re right, that question doesn’t have an answer. And just for a minute, I see beyond myself, and into a much larger world. In doing that, I am once again thankful for the gifts that parenting brings, slipping into my life and enriching it in so many ways.