Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sand Between My Toes

The weather was so gorgeous and warm that my 2-year-old son and I went right outside after lunch and played in the sandbox. While we were happily building roads and sand castles, I heard my 7-month-old daughter waking up from her nap. I ran upstairs to get her and found she had shed a sock, but since it was so warm, instead of searching for it, I just took the other one off and brought her out to the sandbox. At first I sat with her on my lap and let her watch her brother playing in the sand. But after a few minutes, it occurred to me that she might enjoy dipping her bare toes in the sand.
I held her arms and lowered her slowly so her feet just brushed the warm sand. She immediately looked down at her feet with an astonished expression and drew up her left leg, as if having this strange new sensation on both feet at once was more than she could bear. But she soon lowered it again, albeit a bit cautiously, and then began to slide one foot back and forth, watching the tips of her toes as they vanished and reappeared under the cascading sand.

For a full ten minutes she didn’t take her eyes off her feet while she experimented with how different movements made the sand feel on her feet. She poked it gently with a pointed toe, she stomped it with flat feet, she slid her feet back and forth slowly and then quickly, she tried ”walking” a few tentative steps. She buried her toes deep in the sand and then leaned down quizzically as if she was trying to figure out where those sneaky toes had gone to.
She was, in a word, enthralled.
It never ceases to amaze me, this fascination that babies and small children have with new experiences and new sensations. As adults, how often do we get to experience a sensation, a taste, a sound, a sight that we have never sensed, tasted, heard, or seen before? How long has it been since we experienced something truly novel for the very first time? Think back to your first airplane flight or your first roller coaster ride, when you felt that sensation of your stomach dropping for the very first time. You’d never felt anything like it before. It was dizzying. It was overwhelming. It was exhilarating! It doesn’t happen to us very often after the age of 8 or 9. But for babies, that dizzying, overwhelming sense of exhilaration happens every day.
It happens the first time they open their eyes in the light. It happens the first time they taste solid food. The first time they touch snow. The first time they put their weight on their own two feet. The first time they grab a handful of Mummy’s hair, or feel an ice cube, or put their hand into a puddle of cold water. The first time they touch a crayon to paper and it leaves a colorful mark. Each of these experiences teaches them something new about the world around them, and something new about themselves and their relationship to that world.
So the next time you feel sand between your toes, imagine what it must have been like the very first time you ever felt that sensation. And be amazed!
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