Children Have the Gift of Small

Sitting on the sidelines at my granddaughters’ schoolyard one afternoon, I saw how well children know how to celebrate small.

After several days of rain, the sun had appeared and the atmosphere felt balmy. When I picked Amelie and Poppy up after school, they wanted some time on the school playground. With backpacks and coats piled next to me, I settled onto a bench, as the two girls took off in opposite directions, and the dozens of other grade-schoolers ran every which way, their excited voices ringing in the clean air.

After a minute or so, my eyes found Amelie, at the other end of the yard, clustered with her friends. Then, just as I was about to scan for Poppy, I heard her sweet voice calling me. “Gram, Gram,” she yelled, “look, I can jump up to the rings all by myself now.”

As I watched her jump, her tiny arms shooting up into the air, then her fingers grasping the rings, I thought about small. It had been a year since Poppy had mastered the monkey bars, and several months since she had learned to maneuver two rings at a time—both, in my estimation, notable victories.

Watching her, I recalled how at one time, I held her feet and legs, running under her as she crossed back and forth again and again. And how pleased she had been to show me each stage of her progress.

Now today, she was just as pleased at her latest triumph. Over and over, she demonstrated her ability to leap and grasp, leap and grasp. A small advancement in absolutes, perhaps, but monumental to Poppy.

As children, we have the ability to see small, I thought, my eyes riveted on my youngest granddaughter. But we lose it somewhere along the way. Where, I wondered. And how?

In part, I decided, it’s because we as parents, raise the stakes on our children. When they’re small, we celebrate every little thing. The first smile, the first grasp, the first step, the first tooth, the first food. I remember watching Amelie peel a tangerine when she was only one, and exclaiming about her dexterity. Now, six years later, I take much of what her hands can do for granted.

And what about when Poppy was less than two and thought one petal of a flower was beautiful? I was thrilled at her ability to appreciate beauty. And I’m sure I examined that petal with her closely, both of our heads bent toward her tiny hand.

As we mature, we leave behind so much of what makes our childhood magical. But we don’t have to jettison seeing small. With a bit of awareness, we can cultivate a gift that was once innate. Our lives will be that much richer for it.

Rusted Wire on Mare Island

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