Activating The Genius Quality – Wonder
Vacationing with my parents, brother, and extended family at Fish Lake near Wautoma, Wisconsin, was an annual tradition. I smile just thinking about it.
Swimming was a big part of our joy. We wondered how far we could swim without stopping to rest and then we’d swim to find out. We wondered how long we could float, who could float the longest, and then we did it to find out.
We had many fishing contests. Would my brother, dad, and I catch more fish from our boat and our special spot than my uncle and cousins would catch from theirs? We wondered, we went fishing, then we found out.
My mom and my aunt always walked us to an old cemetery on a cloudy day. We examined tombstones and wondered about the people buried there. We made up stories and wondered if we were right.
We had time to wonder. We had people to wonder with. We explored. We tried things. We responded with wonder.
“Wonder” is Extra Powerful
Wonder is a verb … “I wonder how deep the sand goes.” And, an emotional response … “Wow! It goes and goes forever!”
We don’t have to be out-of-doors to express wonder about the world. We can engage it anywhere. Even at home, we can wonder and we can help our kids wonder. We can be surprised; not take everything for granted; and make time to question, sit, and observe. We can not quickly answer kids’ questions if it would be better for them to explore and figure some things out on their own.
This summer, take a break from your busy, typical, hurry-up-here’s-another-assignment existence and wonder. In fact, observe for wonder as Tina Hollenbeck writes about below. She has guest blogged for me here and if you read our biweekly newsletter, you know her from that. Check out how she responded to the children in her care several years ago when she discovered that wonder is a genius quality.
Wonder: “Natural astonishment about the world”
Dr. Armstrong’s definition of wonder especially shows up with young children. Would you agree? Of course, like with the other genius qualities, they have to have the freedom to use it. Tina wrote:
I regularly babysit a two-year old girl. And I spent the last couple weeks of August caring for her almost-seven-year-old sister, as well as another friend’s one-year-old daughter. Adding in my own two girls, we had a house overflowing with estrogen!
But the place was also bursting with wonder. It was constantly obvious in the baby, whose eyes grew wide with interest every time she picked up a new toy. Whether noting what happened when she banged two sorting cups together, “talking” to a Little People figurine she turned over and over in her hands, or discovering the knobs and buttons on a toy barn, her wonder about everything was clear.
Likewise with the two-year old, who revels in paging carefully through picture books and making long lines of toy dishes, blocks, and Mr. Potato Head parts. It’s clear that she’s regularly fascinated by the world around her, too.
What About Older Kids?
With older kids and adults, though, wonder is often more difficult to elicit and detect. Either we’re preoccupied with necessary daily tasks – from schoolwork to laundry to keeping up with emails – or we become discouraged and skeptical because of the all-too-ugly life realities that go unnoticed by young children.
But watching the baby and toddler in my care, I was reminded of wonder and felt challenged to purposefully direct myself and the older children toward it. So I asked each of the older girls to tell me about one thing that makes her think, “Wow!”
Young Anna, who will turn seven in a month, smiled and promptly said, “Airplanes. I saw one right up close once, and I saw another one landing. It was really close to the ground and it was really big.”
Eleven-year old Abigail replied, “The amazing animals God made. Like the duck-billed platypus. That’s a sign of God’s sense of humor!”
Twelve-year old Rachel, herself an artist, had to think for a few moments, but she finally said, “Art. Michelangelo.”
And what amazes me is noticing at random moments the unique wiring of each child’s mind and heart as they all grow and develop into who God means for each to be. I really do regularly marvel at their creativity that’s innate, the notions they contemplate, and the skills they demonstrate. On a more grown-up level, it’s all an extension of the baby studying the details of her own moving fingers.
Having wonder – a natural astonishment about the world – is an inherent human genius quality. Anyone who’s observed babies and toddlers must acknowledge that. Thus, we don’t really need to find ways to develop it. Rather, what older kids – and adults – need in this case is a commitment to keeping our inborn wonder alive and active.
So what can you do today to awaken wonder in yourself and the kids in your care?
“We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”
Check out other blogs in this series: