One of the greatest superpowers of childhood is curiosity. And I bet there are few people who’d debate the importance of validating and fostering the curiosity in children. However, the tone often changes when that curiosity tramples our adult sensibilities. Allow me to share part of an email I received from a woman who heard me speak at a national conference:
I am a (recently) single mom. After a particularly tiring day at work, I lied down on the couch for about 1/2 an hour. When I got up, I went into the kitchen to start making dinner and noticed my 8-year-old son trying to “attach” a straw to the refrigerator water dispenser and drink from it. He was soaked and the floor was very wet. My immediate reaction was to yell at him to stop (“Don’t you know how hard I work–this just makes more for me to clean…etc.”). But before I did, I took a second and thought to myself, “He is having so much fun–it’s just water and as long as it gets cleaned up, what’s the harm?”
So, instead of yelling, I laughed along with him and just asked him to dry the floor when he was done playing. I don’t think I would have done this had I not heard you speak. We both got a good laugh out of it and turned what could have ended up in tears into a happy memory–thanks!
While it’s kind of her to give me so much credit, she deserves the REAL praise, because coming to the conclusion she did in the heat of the moment is really, really hard. Adultitis rules our thoughts more than we’d like to think, and it despises when we step back to look at the bigger picture to put things in perspective.
While a wet floor is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, it’s also not an ideal situation either. But what would have happened had this mother scolded her son? As she herself states, tears probably would have followed, and it’s safe to say that he’d be less likely to follow through on his curiosity in the future.
And the victory of a cleaner, trouble-free household becomes a potential defeat for the whole world.
I would argue that the future of our world, especially in regards to the big problems that need solving, are exclusively tied to the curiosity and creativity of our children.
The old saying goes that you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. And so it is with curiosity. As we follow our curious pursuits, we are bound to have some unfavorable experiences. But if a person is shot down too often after such experiences, he will refrain from taking risks and his curiosity will die.
So by all means, encourage the curiosity in your children, grandchildren, and even yourself. But try not to get too riled up when that curiosity leads to some unintended negative consequences. Take a few seconds, some deep breaths, and step back to consider whether or not it’s really THAT big of a deal.
Perhaps it’s an opportunity to welcome more laughter into your life while contributing to a positive future for the whole world.
Curiouser things have happened.
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