It’s easy to forget how simple children are.  I realize that statement is, at best contradictory and at worse downright blasphemous, so I’ll clarify.  Having children – parenting them – is extremely difficult, and gosh knows they can be moody little suckers, but every once in awhile they surprise you with their ease and leave you wondering…

Today, for instance, I had both kids at the doctor’s office and as we were leaving, the doctor offered each child a prize from the treasure chest.  Leaning over the tiny chest full of toys – army men with parachutes, race cars, balls, rings, tattoos, and compasses – it was clear Adam was looking for something specific.  Abruptly, he shouted out, “Yeah!” and began the goofy victory dance he’s perfected to taunt his sister.  

“I have the penciw shawpenew!!!”, he yelled with glee.

“Adam, we already have a pencil sharpener at home. Why don’t you see if you can find another toy?,” I suggested.

“But this one is shaped wike a basebaw and it can make penciws weawwy shawp!  Can I shawpen penciws when we get home, mommy?  Pwease?  Pwease??

“I was thinking we could eat some pizza and watch a movie together.  How does that sound?  Better than sharpening pencils, right?”

“Aw!  But I want to shawpen penciws!”

“How about you sharpen pencils while I get dinner together?”

“Okay, mama.  I’m gonna make ow penciws shawpew than evewyone ewse’s penciws. Ow penciws will be da best!”

Laughing at the notion that A) Sharpening pencils could ever be THAT exciting, and B) That the competitive nature of boys is truly boundless, I hardly noticed little Tabitha still searching through the treasure box.

“What are you going to pick out?,” I asked.

“I’m going to get this pretty ring!,” she beamed with a tiny, pink heart-shaped ring barely looped around her pinkie finger.

At 3 1/2, poor little Tabitha suffers from her parent’s affliction of being too big for her age.  The tiny, pink ring was clearly meant for more baby-sized fingers and the plastic tension band looked as though it would pop at any second.

“Sweetie, are you sure you want that ring?  I think it’s too small for you.”

In the quiet way that she does, Tabitha removed the little ring, tears welling up in her eyes, and placed it back in the box. I sensed an extended bout of crying lay just beyond the doctor’s office door, but just as I was about to work my mommy mojo on her, to my amazement, Adam stepped in and comforted his little sister.

“Don’t be sad, Tabitha.  When we get home we’we going to shawpen penciws with my new basebaw penciw shawpenew while mama makes dinnew.  Won’t that be fun?,” he said with arms draped over her shoulders.

For a moment, Tabitha looked as confused by Adam’s uncharacteristically considerate behavior as I did.  But like any smart woman, she knew how to seize upon a male’s generosity – don’t question it or it’ll go away.  

“Hooray for pencil sharpening!”, she cheered.  

All the way home, they took turns passing the pencil sharpener back and forth admiring it’s baseball-like appearance, commenting on it’s color (white), and making plans for all the pencils they were going to sharpen to oblivion.  It was bizarre.  Not only was their interaction harmonious, but it sounded to me like they could die that very minute as sublimely happy, fully fulfilled little creatures – for they had been given a cheap, plastic baseball pencil sharpener. Whatever.

Once we were home, Adam darted into the kitchen and ransacked my desk drawer in a hunt for un-sharpened pencils. Retrieving several, him and his sister spent the next 20 minutes dividing pencil sharpening duties, squealing with delight at their new found ability to transform a perfectly good 8 inch long pencil into a 1/4 inch stub of uselessness.  

Later, as I tucked Tabitha into bed, she thanked me.

“Thank you for what?”, I asked.

“Thank you for the pencil sharpener. I had so much fun sharpening pencils with Adam.”

Tabitha’s simple statement had the effect of rendering me a 6 ft tall wall of blubber.  How could I have forgotten about such simple pleasures?  Rolling down a grassy hill, playing Duck, Duck, Goose until your sides ache from the laughter, the sweet, spicy, slightly metallic smell of fresh pencil shavings, or the memory of a time when you were sad and your big brother made you feel a little bit better.  Absolutely everything is amazing and special when you’re a kid because everything inspires wonderment – just as it should.  

Of course, intellectually, I’ve always known this to be true and I’m sure my realization isn’t exactly revelatory to you, either.  But in a moment surely intended for a future book entitled, “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from a 3 Year Old”, my daughter’s gratitude was the smack in the face I needed. All of my soul-searching of late has largely been a maudlin ritual, mulling over all my life that’s left behind.  But with Tabitha’s words, I realized that the only thing we lose that really ages us, is wonderment.  

Tomorrow, my kids may look at that pencil sharpener and say, “big deal” but today, it was a life-changing experience for them.   To my astonishment, letting go of my preconceived notions of fulfillment finally allowed their wonderment to replenish my own dwindling supplies.  No amount of Oil of Olay slathered on each night, nor antioxidant capsules sucked down in a cup of coffee each morning can make you feel as young as a good dose of that.  Besides, wondering about the past or the future is a futile exercise.  The real wonder years are today. Already, today is just another pencil sharpener to my kids.  One of a million small moments that will be replaced in their memories with things that are far more significant.  But for me, today was the first time they shared a sibling moment and took turns using a pencil sharpener – without me having to referee.  That was truly a wonder.

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