By Dr Allan Hunter
It was exceptionally warm the other day. And so I dragged the wading pool out of retirement, inflated it, and filled it early enough in the morning so that the sun could warm up the water by the time the girls (3 and 5) arrived. If they weren’t interested, I thought, then I could always set up a chair and put my feet in.
The girls were considerably excited by the pool, and squealed with delight at the cold water on their toes. The plastic ducks and toys soon had them enthralled.
Every so often one of them would yell, “look at me!” and then would make an extra large splash, or pour a pail of water over her head, or some such thing. The chorus of the day was, “look at me!”
This got me thinking. Why do kids like to be looked at when they’re doing something like that? They had my total attention already. I wasn’t going to take my eyes off them when they were near water. Yet again and again they were shrieking with delight and asking me to look.
Then it struck me that in a few years perhaps they’d be kids who might not want anyone to look at them. That they’d become like most kids – shy of being seen enjoying themselves, shy of having others notice if they were doing something new, fearful in case they weren’t doing it ‘right’.
But for right now there was no judgment to fear; and so they ran, and splashed and fell over and laughed without ceasing.
Wouldn’t it be interesting, I thought, if adults felt as free to share every small new achievement with such unrestrained joy? Wouldn’t it be lovely if we celebrated every inconsequential thing with enthusiasm like theirs? Perhaps there’s something here to be learned about joy. It seems we’re born with it, and then most of us pretend we don’t have it anymore.