There must be a time in each of our lives when we lose it. That sweet innocence that causes us to see the world through a beautiful, unmarred lens. When is it? Maybe it's different for each one of us. Maybe it's not one specific point in particular, but a gradual erosion of this perceived utopia. Perhaps each of life's disappointments, each scrape of the knee or unfulfilled wish knocks us down a notch towards the reality that life isn't perfect, people aren't perfect.
I've been very aware lately that my daughter is still very much living in a state of innocence. Sure, she knows her share of disappointments throughout each day. Only one cookie; no more Sesame Street for today; it's too wet outside to play in the yard. Those lessons are good for her, and we try to be deliberate about not indulging her every whim. But in many ways, she's still living in an unblemished world. In her eyes, I can make everything feel better. Her Daddy can fix anything that's broken. Owies always heal. There are always snacks in the cupboard. Every child she meets is a friend.
A few weeks ago at the park, the strap on one of her pink rubber sandals broke and made it impossible for her to walk around. We were near the end of our visit anyway, so Daddy just carried her to the car (and fixed her sandal with some super glue when we got home...because he can fix anything). Then earlier this week we passed an elderly woman maneuvering down the sidewalk in a motorized wheelchair. Maya asked me, "What's that lady doing, Mama?" I explained that the chair helped her to get around, because she had trouble walking. Maya's response? "She has a broken shoe." Again at the store yesterday we saw a man in a wheelchair. She asked about him and I explained once again that some people have trouble walking and they have special chairs to help them go where they need to go. I told her that sometimes people's legs get sick and can't walk very well. She took in this information, and then confidently told me again, "He probably has a broken shoe."
Her responses in these situations really struck me. In Maya's mind, with her strong, healthy little body more than able to carry her easily throughout each day, there is no other explanation for being unable to walk than her one experience of the kind...when a broken shoe was the culprit. She doesn't know a reality where legs don't walk, where ears don't hear or eyes don't see. Life's hurdles can be overcome with a scoop into Daddy's arms and a few dots of super glue.
It's not that I really want her to remain blissfully unaware of hardship. I mean, sure, there are some bits of innocence that I'd love for her to hang onto. As a mother, my impulse is to shield her from things that could cause her pain. I don't want her to experience rejection from others. I'm not looking forward to the inevitable stage where she realizes that Daddy & Mommy aren't perfect. And some elements of her inexperience are just plain convenient! The ice cream truck is just a truck that plays music, for instance. And she still thinks that you need a key in order to access the goodies inside gumball machines. Long live that innocence! But I do want her to gain, in time, a healthy perspective on life's roadblocks. I want her to understand that there are those who are less fortunate than we are and feel compassion for those who those who live with difficulties, physical or otherwise. I want her to be generous and to be thankful for the blessings of health, family, friends, and resources.
I know that with time, she will understand. It's a bittersweet thought for me. Part of me wants her to only know a life where the biggest hurdle is a broken shoe. But I know that, as with many things in this journey we call motherhood, I will have to let go of that wish over time. Life is sure to bring it's share of struggles and tears. And many of those experiences will be valuable lessons that will serve to shape her. But you can bet that Daddy and I will always be there with hugs, prayers, words, and yes...super glue, whenever she needs them.