Most of us pay attention to what we see, hear, taste, smell and touch. There is another sense most adults have forgotten . . . our sense of wonder. We notice the form of an object we’re looking at but neglect to observe the shapes, colors and shadows around the form that create the space the form makes. We hear the notes of music being played but neglect to listen for the spaces between the notes – the lingering resonance or the silences that makes the melody unique.
Children, on the other hand, live in the spaces between the notes. They do not experience the world the way we do. They see the world upside down and inside out. They feel things with their soul not just their fingers. Every sight, sound, touch and smell awakens a new dance with their senses. They display a sense of amazement and delight at common experiences like taking a bath, licking a peppermint sucker, stroking a kitten, or skipping to school. They haven’t yet learned what deserves careful attention and what to ignore through repetition – so they pay careful heed to everything. They display a sense of curiosity at fingers and toes, doorbells and frost lace. They see the ant on the sidewalk, hear the rushing wind in the pines, smell the lilacs before they bloom and feel the tickle in their tummies.
Life for children is a musical dance. The world they crawl or run through is only anchored with a nebulous staff. The air they fly through arches past the lines and spaces. They listen closely to the intricacies of sound – the cadences and inflections of expression or the intonation, tone and pitch before they learn to express intelligible language. They mimic the phrasing of voice before they experiment with the specific sounds of words.
Even adults intrinsically sense a child’s internal music as we feel drawn to rock or sway our babies. Singing a lullaby is a universal response to calm a fussy child. Children return us to the music of living – the rhythm of time’s movement. When we hold our children with love we soon match each other’s breathing and heart rates forming a soothing duet of one.
Children have not yet learned the theory of major and minor chords or mastered the placement of sharps or flats. Yet they know the pure melody of love. They wrap their entire beings around our hearts and bring us back to wonder and awe. As they delight in rocks, sticks and mud in our back yard, they teach us to see again. As they notice details like earlobes and icicles, we re-experience the wonder of our own lives. As they rush to rescue wounded birds we learn to feel again with gentler hearts. As they are overcome with fear, we re-experience the majesty and awe of thunderstorms and lightening.
There is a pattern to living, a tempo, time and beat. Children hear their own cadence. If we want to keep pace we need to look ahead to where they are going and follow. Like the first, second and third movements of a symphony, we can return to where we began if we allow a child to lead us. In the stillness of the night we will hear the melody we once knew. If we listen with our hearts, a child’s song of innocence will take us back to where we began.