It was the mid 1980’s when we drove from the Chicago suburb to Florida to blister our bodies on the beach, revel in the marvels of Disney World, and tour the Kennedy Space Center. The girls were young, around 10 and 12, but had become skilled at traveling in Europe making them good companions.
The space center offered us an awesome sight: a launch being prepared for the near future. We were joined on the tour bus by a group of junior high students who declared all of it “boring.” (Side note: our children were fined for using the “B” word in any form). I was astonished: how can anyone be bored by this miracle of humans soaring into space? It had been less than a century, close to the time of my father’s birth, since the Wrights had contrived a vehicle to coast above the ground. As I considered how one could be unimpressed in this situation, I concluded that boredom comes from 1) subject matter that is incomprehensible or over one’s head or 2) subject matter that is too shallow for one’s mind. These students suffered from rule 1 and did not have the knowledge to be astounded by the miracles in the front of them.
I like this quote from Annie Dillard. As new parents, we look through our children’s eyes and project that they are as enthralled as we by their experiences. But everything is new to a child so that, although fascinated, they may not be impressed.
The sunsets in Arizona are magnificent, and I couldn’t fill my eyes enough after moving from the Midwest. C-boy was often mystified as to why I was calling him out urgently to look at the sky. After daughter YD returned to Chicago following a short stay in Arizona, she remarked, “I forgot how gray it is here.”
It was a few days ago, in the heat of the summer and confinement of the pandemic, that we took the boys to Prescott to enjoy fresh air and social distancing while kayaking at a nearby lake and at my sister and her husband’s cabin. Alas, only Mowgli kayaked, for about 15 minutes at which time he overturned the kayak and declared the need for a shower. Blue Boy was on his device until forced to put it down for games and dinner. Neither appeared appreciative of the respite from heat.
Nevertheless, we keep throwing experiences at them. That teacher in the Dillard quote is stunned by the leaves and the children humor her. But I give more credit to the teacher; I think she is trying to awaken and grow in them a sense of awe, of surprise, of wonder. Life is an amazing miracle!