Mouths of Babes
By Tom E. Bodett
Condensed from Small Comforts
as printed in Readers Digest June1991
Among the thousand truisms and cliches that were hurled at us as expectant parents was one I actually looked forward to. “You are going to learn the most important things from your children.”
I soon decided it was all just a wish. My wife and I spent the first 20 months with our child teaching him everthing from rolling over to the dynamics of liquids in cups not carefully handled. I’d yet to see where the teaching left off and the learning began. And then the time
There are only a few words our boy has in his vocabulary. More is probably the foremost and means anything from fun to food. No is also a front-runner -- he hears it so much he naturally repeats it at every opportunity. Hello, Bye-bye, Momma and Daddy make up his standard casual conversation, and that’s about the size of it.
Except for one word. By far his most distinguished and seldom used expression is wow. He only says “wow” when something really impresses him: If Dad lets a frying pan catch on fire. If we hit the ditch on the way to town. If the house were to burn down around him, I’m confident he would sum it all up with “wow.”
We recently spent the night at our friends’ house. They have an extra room in the basement, and we were set up with the bed and crib in the same room. I slept well but woke up too early and couldn’t get back to sleep.
In our natural habitat my wife and I don’t sleep with the baby. We normally first come to know he’s awake by a series of screams that would put any self-righteous banshee to shame. But lying there wide-awake in an unfamiliar house offered me the opportunity to hear my child wake up for the first time.
I was thinking about my day, a Sunday, and all the chores that were at hand. We’d have to get organized and go home. My wife would clean the house. I would pay bills and do some home repairs. The prospect of all this was less than the stuff of dreams.
I heard my child stir. He rolled over, opened his eyes and said, “Wow.” Suddenly, I learned something.
With all my training on “good thoughts,” “looking on the bright side” and “taking it a day at a time,” I woke up to a near miserable world. This little boy, with no experience at his disposal, was at the place I’ve been looking for. To wake up in the morning, take a look at the world, and say “wow” is probably as close to contentment as a person could ever get.
I’m sure our child will eventually wake up, as most of us do, only to say “ugh.” I wish I knew what I could do to never let this happen. I wish he could teach me the way he sees thing now.
If we could just make ourselves relearn what it takes to open our eyes in the morning, see that we are alive in paradise and say “wow.”