Like most people, I could see from birth, but somehow between life and living I lost the magic of sight. I learned to see again at 36, and it was not glasses or laser surgery that renewed my vision, but the eyes of my 17 month old daughter. Now I look at the world through fresh bright eyes, I absorb the beauty of everyday things, and I have learned all over again to appreciate what a wonderful world it is.
Anyone who has ever watched and loved the Dead Poet’s Society understands the principle of standing on a table, or on top of a hill, to gain a different perspective on the world. I now realise there’s an even better view – and it’s about a foot high. One day, following the advice of one of my many baby / toddler tomes, I got down on my hands and knees to crawl around the living room at Daisy’s height to assess the potential dangers that lay in reach of curious fingers and eager mouths. It absolutely amazed me: so much furniture to climb, so many corners to investigate, so many cables, hinges, nooks and crannies. So much dust! It also felt quite daunting. Tall towering plants, giant mountainous furniture, so many tempting objects frustratingly out of reach. I then realised how much my daughter had to look up all the time, and so I decided to make a concerted effort to get down on the floor to her level as much as possible. Now I regularly become a hobbit for the afternoon, and the little people have a great view! Although it can be daunting, it is also so very exciting. Flowers in the garden tickle your face, cuddly cats stride past as big as elephants allowing you to hug them with your whole body, low wide window ledges beg to be climbed onto to watch the world go by, a jungle of shoes in the bottom of the wardrobe cry out to be waded through.
Watching my child discover all her ‘firsts’ has been a journey of discovery for us both. The first time she experienced wind on her face and tried to sweep it away with her hand, I felt just how gentle a whisper of breeze can feel. It is something we take for granted, yet it makes her giggle with delight. The first time she saw snow, her face wide in amazement and confusion, I took fresh delight in tracing my hands through it and tasting its icy goodness on my tongue. We took time out from the bustle and rush of going somewhere and stood in the garden eating snow and it felt so good. The first time she saw the ducks in the park, wide-eyed and excited, I quacked till I was hoarse and we laughed at their sheer silliness. I’m 37 and now I quack at least once a week – it’s so good for the soul! The first time she stepped in a puddle, confused by the moving ground, she looked at me for reassurance. For 25 years I had avoided puddles, too grown up to wet my feet. But that day I stamped in a long lost memory and rediscovered its delight all over again. We stamped all the way to the shops and it just didn’t matter that our feet got wet. And it wasn’t just with my eyes I found new adventure. Eating her first strawberry, I tasted the sweet red berry anew. Those first delicious drops of ice-cream – how heavenly for us both! Eating wibbly wobbly jelly with our hands – can there be more fun?
But as with all new discoveries, lessons have to be learnt. Those beautiful bright blue eyes are so innocent and naive and although I wish she could hold on to that wonderful world forever, I know I have to show her that it may not always be so. At the moment, every dog she sees is a big cuddly pal like Harry next door, who wants to lick her upturned face and let her pull his tail. I somehow have to teach her to be cautious without dissipating her delight in animals because I know not every dog will be as patient as Harry. In every new person that says hello or comes to the door, she sees a new friend to give and get hugs from, whose hand she will happily take to play in her wonderful world. At some point though, I will have to teach her to distinguish friend from stranger, because I know not all strangers are friends.
I need to teach her that sometimes the world isn’t so wonderful – wasps, nettles, deep water, cars, strangers and I dread seeing the bright light in her eyes diminish just a fraction. I will have to teach my fearless enthusiast caution and calm and it breaks my heart. It is just so hard. How can I pull her away from the toilet telling her it’s ‘dirty’ when she takes such squealing pleasure from the rush of flushing water? Yet I must. How can I tell her not to put the daffodil head in her mouth and eat it when they must just look so enticing? Yet I must. How can I be stern and cross and tell her not to pull the cat’s tail, when he rolls in front of her flicking it tantalisingly in her face? Yet I must. Not all toilets are as clean as ours. Not all plants are safe to eat. One day the cat just might fight back. With every new adventure we must both learn the delights and dangers. So I guess, as with everything in parenthood, it’s all about balance. I want her to keep teaching me how wonderful the world is as we explore its array of miracles and beauty every day, and I want her to learn from me how to be safe, and kind and respectful.
And I suppose that is how it should be – we will teach each other, my child and I, and between us our world will be a better place.
(Published in Modern Mum, Summer 2007 issue)
(c) AKG 2008