Kids are perpetually candid, often to the point of being surprisingly blunt. For example, once when my husband and I held our young son in a hug and told him how much we loved him, he responded in a tone of casual boredom and the faintest of eye rolls, “Whatever.” It was all I could do to stifle a giggle. However, kids are also full of spontaneous encouragement. Over the years, I have been awed and humbled by kids’ uninhibited nature. Recently, I have reflected on the ways in which I can continue to learn and grow from these small, often unexpected, candid moments of inspiration.
Appreciation: Recently, as my son ate his lunch, he suddenly stopped and said earnestly, “This food is so good! I want to thank God for this delicious meal.” He proceeded to bow his head and prayed simply, “Thank you, God, for this delicious food.” Then he continued his meal. We practice prayer in our family, but often it can feel like a habitual routine, before a meal, at bedtime, or during a time of need. Of course, we offer prayers of appreciation as well, but those sometimes seem lost in the prayers of request. My son’s desire to simply convey thanks and appreciation was an inspiring reminder for me to pray more often with sincere gratitude.
Joy: During a Christmas Eve service a couple years ago, the congregation sat packed in the pews while a soloist provided a musical offering of “O Holy Night.” My ten month old daughter stood in my lap watching the soloist in complete rapture. Then, as the vocalist hit the climactic high note with breathtakingly clear beauty, my daughter suddenly started singing at the top of her lungs to the pitch of the sustained note. Heads turned toward us as people looked around curiously, trying to identify the origin of the second voice. As I worked to overcome my initial embarrassment for the disturbance, it struck me how powerful joy can be – so powerful, that if we allow it to, it can literally burst forth in song.
Kindness: Several months ago, my kids were playing at a playground when an older boy joined them on the merry-go-round. I watched close by and prepared to intervene, having learned from previous interactions that older kids aren’t always sensitive to the fact that younger kids don’t tolerate a fast spin. I saw my son nervously eye the older boy, apparently also prepared to warn him not to go too fast. However, the boy proceeded to gently push the merry-go-round, checking in with my son to make sure the speed was within his comfort zone. As I observed their interaction my heart filled with gratitude in the unexpected moment. My son laughed as the boy continued to push them. This lasted for several minutes, far exceeding the limit I would expect from an older kid who offered to push the merry-go-round for younger kids. After a while, my kids were ready to move on and the boy carefully slowed them to a stop before guiding them off the equipment, ensuring they were both safely on the ground. Then he wandered off to play in a different part of the playground. I was overcome with appreciation for this boy’s thoughtful kindness. I was especially impressed with his awareness for those around him. It made me pause and examine my own awareness and approach to those around me. Seeing such kindness in this child inspired me to strive to continue to grow in this area of my life, to intentionally practice patience, respect, and kindness in my interactions.
Laughter: My daughter loves to make people laugh. At two years old, her comedic and goofy sense of timing is often hilarious. She learned a knock knock joke about an interrupting cow that she has not yet mastered the appropriate timing in her delivery (the punch line requires the joke teller to interrupt the “Interrupting cow who?” inquiry with a “MOO!”). Somehow, despite the fact that her “Moo!” doesn’t interrupt as the joke intends, her very delayed and dramatic delivery causes spontaneous laughter from her audience. She especially loves to tell her jokes during the end of mealtimes, as my husband and I struggle to motivate the kids to finish their food. I think it’s her way of reminding everyone to take a step back and slow down. She finds comfort in the joyful sound of laughter and creates small moments of enjoyment even during mundane activities. It made me realize that sometimes I get so caught up in all the responsibilities, disappointments, chaos, and unexpecteds that I honestly forget to laugh and just enjoy daily life.
Praise: During a church service last year, my mom played piano while the congregation received communion. My family was near the end of the line so she was just finishing as we walked back to our pews. The church was hushed in contemplative silence as the music came to an end. Just then, my three year old son broke the quiet when he exclaimed enthusiastically, and quite loudly, “Wow, Grandma, you’re amazing!” There was a ripple of laughter before the entire congregation erupted in appreciative applause. Later, as I considered his sincere expression, it brought to my attention my tendency to be inhibited when it comes to celebrating those around me. I resolved to be more confident in communicating hopeful and encouraging compliments of praise.
I often find when I slow down and focus on the events of the day, there are many examples of sincere, authentically beautiful moments continually happening all around me. I hope to grow in my awareness of and continue to learn important lessons from these candid moments of inspiration.
Wendi, her husband, and their two kids are currently perfecting their best “ya sure you betcha” accents, having relocated to northern Minnesota. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters and a member of the podcast Moms Who Wine.
photo credit: personal photo