Curious George, by H. A. Rey, is one my favorite story book characters. His incessant curiosity gets him in so many messes but inevitably takes him to amazing places and great accomplishments.
Imagine the mind without curiosity. It would be like a sail boat without wind, or an orchestra without music or a light bulb without electricity! Curiosity is what forces the mind to get up and accomplish what it was built for.
God gave us minds with all the necessary components for reaching it’s maximum potential and then empowered it with the driving force of curiosity to get it there.
Have you ever stopped to thoughtfully watch and consider the development of a child in his first year of life? It is fascinating! Their eyes darting about and hands reaching out are their mind’s way of shouting, “I want to know!” It is to the mind what a growling hungry tummy is to the body. Our children are born equally physically and mentally hungry. As early as two weeks their cloudy little eyes begin to clear enough to make out the shape of their mother’s face and finally, they are able to connect that image with the voice they have been hearing for five months.
In that moment, the first truth is realized, “I belong. I am loved.” and the search for truth and knowledge is catapulted into a lifelong pursuit.
As wise parents we recognize this pursuit and we all have this one thing in common: a passionate desire to provide the inspiration to keep it thriving and the guidance to keep it moving in the right direction.
But we better be on our toes because as often as they are looking, listening, reaching, crawling, touching, climbing they are soaking up data and storing it away in their hungry little brains and drawing conclusions about some pretty big ideas and concepts. So, it’s our job as parents to forever keep the right kinds of things dangling out in front of them to keep their curiosity thriving.
A curious child is a learning, growing, full of life child and as long as their curiosity is encouraged and given direction they will reach for more.
Ava Grace, my nine month old granddaughter, is all arms and legs right now. We can barely hold on to her because she is desperate to forever be tasting, touching, and exploring everything around her; it seems to require her entire body to satisfy her desperation! No matter how clean the floor is (and sometimes not so clean!) she manages to find something to put in her mouth. All healthy babies are born this way, with ravenous appetites to know.
Contrast this image of Ava Grace expressing her desire to know with a video game addict for example. We’ve all read articles and heard stories of game addicts and warnings to parents on the subject.
Game addiction recovery is a real issue some very distraught parents are facing these days and recovery programs and centers have been established to help children and adults once again discover life outside of the fantasy world gaming creates.
By now we immediately have an image pop in our heads when we hear the term “gamer” along with the listless apathetic qualities that come to mind, indicative of their nature. But game addicts are not the only ones with this passive and sometimes even indifferent posture towards life.
If you take the time to observe children at all you will notice the lifeless quality of some compared to others who seem to have a love for life; they embrace the world around them with hope, vigor and a bright smile. So, how does it happen that all healthy babies born with a hungry mind, some thrive but some grow into a lifeless apathetic ten year old? What is going on?
Somehow, someone or something, somewhere along the way quit feeding his natural God given curiosity and by default put a lid on it.
And from that point on, all information was just that. Information devoid of purpose or meaning. Their imagination was snuffed out, their dreams and ideas unnoticed and they decided it was safer to make the butterfly in their spirit crawl back into its cocoon.
When a child’s world consistently communicates messages like, “Be careful, there is danger around every corner” or “Everything is off limits. Keep your hands to yourself” or “No one cares about my ideas or discoveries”, his brain will process this information into “I am afraid”, “Everything I do is wrong”, “I have no worth”. Their curiosity will soon be squashed and the driving force for learning and growing will diminish leaving him clinging only to what is safe and familiar.
A child who runs, laughs, creates and plays hard is a child whose natural, positive curiosities have been nurtured, fed and, sometimes for more passive children, pulled out of him.
He is a child whose parents have been wise enough to be watchful, providing the inspiration and guidance his ever thriving and moving curiosities demand.
They are confident because they have taken the time to think about and put into general terms the final destination they hope to lead their children to reach while providing the fuel and route for the journey. The fuel for the journey is found in all the stuff of life that creates the culture that defines them as a family. The books, toys, art, music, activities, beliefs, media, technology, sports, people etc.
These wise parents know that their child’s curiosities will naturally latch on to the things they surround their kids with, so they have been very careful not to feed their curiosities with stuff that will lead them down unintended paths.
The elements they choose to create their environment speak volumes to their children about what is most important and who they are as a family. All of these elements and the amount of time and attention given to them are in line with the route and the destination where they hope to see their children land one day.
There is a time and a place for everything. A time to be cautious, and a time for abandon. A time to be reserved and a time for expression. A time to restrain and a time to set free.
I, for one, have been guilty of restraining my children when I should have set them free, or setting free when I should have restrained. I have called creativity “a mess”. By some of my reactions I have tagged the word “failure” to their best efforts. I have gotten uptight about dirty clothes when I should have applauded exploration.
Walk around outside with your new born and say “Thank you God for the Sun. Thank you God, for the trees.” Watch your child’s vocabulary sore as you attach words to the things she reaches for instead of just pulling her hand away. Get out in the yard with your son today and share in his delight at discovering something new.
You may find the butterfly in your spirit taking to flight again.
Thank you for reading!