To “wonder” can mean a couple of different things. We wonder when we are curious, as in “I wonder what tomorrow will bring.” We also wonder when we are presented with something amazing and we experience awe.
I wonder a lot.
With a biology degree and a career in engineering, it’s not surprising that I am geared toward wondering about things. I come by that curiosity naturally. While I was growing up, my Grandpa Burke and my father both exhibited an infectious desire for knowledge of all sorts. There’s SO much to know about the world and so much of it is truly amazing!
Our boys were born into a wondrous age. The World Wide Web didn’t go public until after Gerrit and Tucker were born. DVDs and Google both arrived after Philip. Facebook only came into being in 2004. Now it’s hard to imagine life without them. As fast as things are changing, it’s reasonable to wonder what the world might be like when our boys are grown.
We often speculated about this around our dinner table .
We wondered what things about our lives would seem backward and “low tech” to their kids. The idea that our phone handset was once tethered to the wall by a long curly cable already seemed hopelessly old-fashioned. They had seen payphones, but in a world of cell phones they were a rare find. CB radios and pagers might as well be museum pieces.
So what new things might their children take for granted? We wondered if having to connect electronic things to the wall with wires to get power might seem ridiculous to them, because wireless power will be available. Maybe they’ll just shake their heads at our descriptions of power strips and extension cords.
Microscopic robots might be used in medicine to cure things that now require risky surgery. I heard recently that some scientists have re-engineered the HIV virus to attack and kill cancer cells. Two of the three terminal cancer patients they tried it on are now completely cancer free. The other is in remission. Imagine the HIV/AIDS scourge of our lifetime becoming the cure for cancer in theirs.
Childhood abounds with wonder. Children’s books are filled with fantastic characters. Storks bring new brothers and sisters. Fairies carry away baby teeth and leave money. A jolly old elf brings toys at Christmas. The line between what’s real and what’s imaginary can stay blurry for many of a child’s formative years.
It can take even longer if your dad is a big fan of wonder.
Gerrit was almost 9 before he found out about Santa. That’s the 4th grade. We treasured his innocence, but we were getting a little worried that his friends were going to start making fun of him. We were a little surprised they hadn’t already spilled the beans. But Gerrit KNEW there was a Santa Claus, because he’d seen the evidence.
My boys had seen all sorts of proof.
In addition to traditional bites out of the cookies, and evidence that the milk had been sipped, my boys were faced with CSI-level evidence, like real whiskers on the plate and finger prints on the glass. There were chewed-up carrots and pine straw scattered on the deck where the reindeer had been very messy. They usually sloshed their water on the floor too. Sometimes there were muddy boot prints. The evidence was compelling.
When we lived in California there wasn’t any snow, but the sleigh left pretty clear tracks in our back yard. In order to make those tracks I tipped their child-sized picnic table up on two of its legs and dragged it through the muddy grass from wall to wall. You could see where the sleigh lifted off to clear the wall into the next door neighbor’s yard. The reindeer hoof prints stopped right where it lifted off.
It was awesome!
But as much as I loved prolonging their sense of wonder, Karen and I agreed that it was time. Gerrit was going to find out soon and we preferred that it came from us. So after dinner one night, we asked the boys if their friends had been talking about Santa. They had, so we took the conversation a little further.
Me: “Who do you think Santa really is?”
Gerrit: (looking at us like we’d just asked a pretty stupid question) “He’s the fat guy in a red suit who brings us presents at Christmas.” (duh!)
Tucker: (who was 6 years old and already an accomplished cynic) “I think he’s really your parents.”
Me: “Well guys, it turns out that Tucker’s right.”
Gerrit: (with the blood draining from his face) “What?”
Me: “Yeah buddy. We do all the Santa stuff. There was a Santa many years ago, but he was just a man, and he died. Since then, parents have been carrying on the tradition. Now that you know, you guys get to be part of the special club of people who keep that part of Christmas special for other kids.”
Gerrit: (stunned silence)
Tucker: “I don’t think there’s a Tooth Fairy either.”
Me: “Why’s that, Tuck?”
Tucker: “Well, have you ever seen little fairies flying around swapping teeth for money?”
Me: “Well, Tuck. You’re right. We do the tooth fairy thing too.”
Gerrit: (whose world view was taking some serious hits in rapid succession) “WHAT!?! There’s no Tooth Fairy either?”
Me: “I’m afraid not, Big Guy, but don’t worry. We really ARE your parents.”
The childlike faith that the Bible speaks of is all about wonder. It’s a faith that doesn’t yet have all the information but goes with what it knows, because the world is full of mystery and surprise and delight. Sometimes a mystery doesn’t turn out like we expect, but that doesn’t have to lessen our enthusiasm for the remaining mysteries.
The world is full of wonder. Don’t miss out.
originally published 12/8/11| next post Wrestle Time 2