As A Child

Jumbled relics line the shore, each mysterious and magical, ignored by those over 3.

Every young grandchild is above average in every way.  My wife and I find that we had largely forgotten our own sons’ toddler years, when we were too busy to think or notice much more than how we never got any sleep.  Now that we babysit a two-and-a-half year old, I am constantly amazed at how rapidly humans become competent.

We thought we childproofed our house, but we were wrong.  Clever hands and inquisitive mind.  A little while ago he was babbling incoherently, now he easily orders everyone around.  Shaky crawling has given way to study runs, jumps, and spins.  Expensive baby toys are no longer relevant.  Impossible puzzles have become boring exercises. 

Each day, it seems, another ability manifests.  Cutting, or counting a little higher, or recognizing a complex symbol as a letter, or remembering the pages of a storybook.  Following complicated instructions, knowing how to get older people to do things, finding interesting ways to become interested in the world.  Showing, at times, fierce concentration to obtain mastery.    

A fortunate few manage to hang on to a sense of whimsy as they grow up, some of them produce unexpected sculptures.

Some people, particularly the lonely, now claim consciousness and intellect for various species.  That all depends on definitions.  Dogs, bred to be both useful and appealing, are the most commonly noted.  There seems to be majesty and intelligence behind those big eyes.

But compared to what any normal child in their third year can do, the rest of the animal kingdom is pretty dumb.  They cannot respond to a complex choice (“would you rather go outside or sit and watch tv?”),  they cannot manipulate blocks into a building which then then play with as a fire station, they cannot draw a circle on a chalkboard, nor learn to sing along with myriad songs.  Watching a person grow at this age easily demonstrates why humans have become, for better or worse, masters of the planet.  Without really exerting themselves too much.

Ripples and reflections and rocks under shifting light _ a natural abstract artwork for those with eyes to see and just a little more time than most of us have.

We all ask: why do perfect little angels grow up into something else?  But adults are amazing too _ we just take everything for granted.  We take ourselves for granted.  We are not simply logical machines, we are not just wetware instinctively reacting to the environment.  Truthfully, no person who contemplates existence ever believes they understand the reality of our being.

This is a cynical time, in which we all consider ourselves worldly-wise.  Each of us is Hamlet _ able to recite “what a piece of work is man …” but finally agreeing with him that each of us is just temporary futile dust, of no consequence to anything.  Our little toddler is certainly “a piece of work,” and hopefully has a long way to dustdom.  In his simple momentary happinesses, I find my own better equilibrium with our miraculous universe. 

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