Yesterday I took my grand-daughter Ananda to the city of Sydney to visit the Sydney Aquarium. This was a moment she had been waiting for since I brought her to Australia a month ago. Her anticipation of it was so great that for the past few days, I successfully used this trip to the aquarium as leverage for her to do what I wanted her to, like finishing her meals, brushing her teeth and picking up her toys.
She finally got her wish yesterday when my daughter Ala and I took her on a train ride to the city to fulfill my promise.
From the time I woke her up until the end of the day, I observed her and made mental notes on how differently a child like Ananda actually enjoys an experience as opposed to Ala and myself. Of course, I know there are differences between adults and children, and some of them are quite obvious. But I have often wondered who has a greater appreciation of things and can get more out of the experience.
For Ananda, every moment spent with her Ninang Ala and me on this little excursion seemed to be so important that she wouldn’t allow anything to pass without commenting. She talked constantly, engaging us, asking about this and that.
“Can I press the button of the elevator?” “Can I put the ticket in the turnstile?” “Why is the train color yellow?” “Can we play the animal game while we sit on the train?” These were just four of perhaps more than a hundred questions she asked in a period of about seven hours. And every few moments of the 45-minute train ride, she asked, “Are we almost there yet?”
To this adult, it could get exasperating to have to answer every question she asked. Sometimes I just answered with “Because…”, hoping it would keep her quiet, but to no avail. I constantly had to remind myself as I mustered all of my grandfatherly patience, that there is nothing wrong with her being inquisitive. In fact, I should be thankful that she is, instead of being dull, silent and not inquiring at all.
The mind of a child is wired in a way that it has an appetite to know everything and make immediate sense of what it sees. In the case of Ananda, she has a great appetite that is never sated, not even by the endless smorgasbord of new things that she encounters in the world around her. She is constantly fascinated by things, people, objects and has a great desire to know and “own” them.
Before we left the house, her grandma gamely gave her a dollar to put in her pocket, which made her feel “rich.” With her one dollar, she wanted to buy everything that struck her fancy — little toys, chocolate bars, candies, knick-knacks, train tickets, etc.
One thing I noticed is, I do not have as strong a desire anymore — as Ananda does — to open the door wide to life and let in all sorts of people and things. Past experiences have jaded me to many of life’s aspects, and certain types of people. And this, I am quite sure, has made me miss out on a lot. It is refreshing to see in Ananda a blank slate and an unlimited capacity and drive to absorb everything that comes her way.
When I am with Ananda, I feel that she is pulling her toy box from under the bed for the first time while I have put my toys back in a box, locked it and put it away.
While Ananda sees her Lolo as a fountain of knowledge, security, love, material blessings and a fun companion (more or less), I see in her boundless enthusiasm, total freshness, unbridled rawness, a lack of decorum or political correctness that awakens in me a sense of what I have lost. It is a loss that I see only when I am patient enough to let go of my “adultness.”
For example, I catch myself constantly reminding her to lower her naturally loud voice when we are in public, or to stop asking too many questions. But just as soon as I do, I stop myself and just allow her to be as natural as she can be.
It is fascinating to see the power a child naturally possesses. When children are upset and cry, their parents are beside themselves doing everything they can to stop them from crying. Often, when a child shows off this power, adults put them in their place, scolding and threatening in the name of discipline, passing on to the child the message that having power is “wrong,” when what we should be teaching them is how to use it wisely and when.
“A child seldom needs a good talking to as a good listening to,” observed writer Robert Brault. Having grown up in an age when children were seen but not heard, I chose to bring up my children differently. As a young parent many years ago, I decided I wanted my kids to grow up expressing themselves freely. I am quite happy with the decision, because at least I more or less know where they are at emotionally, psychologically, etc. and that is valuable when you are raising them and helping them stay out of trouble.
I watched Ananda hop, skip and jump as we moved through the city, and I recalled the magical moments in my own childhood (and some in my adulthood) when there was no moment that music was not playing, or where there was nothing but beauty and fascination everywhere. I smiled and said “thank you” to the life prana that animates her and awakens my own.
To a child like Ananda, time is not a measured landscape with a beginning and an end but a magical dimension in which she is totally engrossed. In it, she is like an athlete in “the zone,” totally one with what she is doing, until an adult says “Time’s up.”
To a child, life is all play and joy until adults come and take that away, slowly but surely. It seems the opposite is true for us grownups where life is mostly about work and being responsible, with only occasional moments of play and joy. I believe that the few times we adults have these moments are sacred epiphanies that make life worth living.
The difference between us adults and kids is that they do these things naturally, without thinking about it or trying too hard while we have to make the conscious decision to allow or create such experiences. One might say then that while a child is naturally happy, with adults, being happy is a deliberate choice.
Last night, before going to bed, Ananda gave me a big hug and thanked me for the great day she had. Before she closed her eyes, she whispered, “I love you, Lolo.”
This kid can always melt my heart. In turn, I hugged her for being the naturally wonderful person she is. I guess, with Ananda, I am like a kid since I love her without having to decide or to try at all.
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I am happy to announce the 47th run of “Tapping the Creative Universe (TCU) Workshop,” an experience of creative, joyful awakening. This will run from August 3 to 7 and finish August 10 from 7 to 9 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. The cost per participant is P5,000.
Please call 426-5375 or 0916- 8554304 and ask for Ollie, or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions or reservations. You can also visit http://www.tappingthecreativeuniverse.com for the syllabus, FAQ and testimonials from people who have taken it.