My family recently took a roadtrip to the Midwest. It was fairly short, so we were limited by our stops and by the ability (or inability) of our children to stay engaged. Our 3 major stops with sightseeing opportunities were Nashville, Tennessee, St. Louis, Missouri, and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota.
We had done some research before we left to see what attractions might be appropriate for younger children. I wrote about introducing my kids to Johnny Cash, his life and his music here. In St. Louis, there were multiple options, depending on which ones we decided. Thinking that less was better and not wanting to be those parents who forced their kids to “enjoy” every minute of their time, we chose one attraction for the morning and one for the evening. We chose to go to the Gateway Arch in the morning and the zoo in the afternoon.
Once upon a time, I worked as an engineer, so I have a pretty good understanding of how things are put together and how they work. It was slightly troubling to me that somehow, you had to get to the top of the Gateway Arch. While I don’t get paralyzed by small spaces, I certainly am not a fan of them. It’s amazing though, how much you can accomplish when you just keep reminding yourself that, “It’s for the kids.”
We looked around the museum at the base of the arch for a little while before our ticketed time to take the pod to the top. Thankfully, there was a window on it and I could see out as we were ascending to the top. One of my sons commented that he felt like the droids in Star Wars when they were in the escape pod. That eased the tension of being cramped in that little, confined space.
We got to the top and it was pure bliss for my children. They got up on the ledge to look out the windows and see for miles and miles around. They looked at Busch Stadium and the Mississippi River and all that was around them. It was one of those moments for which cameras were created. The sheer wonder on their faces was such a delight for me and my wife.
As I stood there and watched them, filled with wonder and amazement at all that their eyes could see, I stopped to think about my own sense of wonder. It’s too easy to cakewalk through life without really stopping to take inventory of everything that we’re observing. It’s also easy to forget how wonderful things looked the first time I experienced them.
I think it should almost be a requirement for everyone to spend a day with a child every once in a while and take them to do something or see something that they have never experienced before. Just those few minutes of watching my kids was enough to bring a renewed sense of wonder into me. I couldn’t remember the last time that I had actually marveled at something that I was looking at.
I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 18 to the disciples. He said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus goes on to say, “Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” I get the feeling that Jesus was saying that adults have a tendency to complicate things and to lose the wonder in their view of the world. Things aren’t as complicated as we make them out to be, but for some reason, we always try to make them that way.
Take some time to enjoy your kids, or your neighbor’s kids, or your friend’s kids. Take them somewhere where they’ve never been to see something that they’ve never seen. Make sure you watch them as they experience these things for the first time. And make sure you bring a camera, you’ll need it for the next time that you need a gentle reminder that sometimes, an innocent look of wonder can change your whole perspective.