Community Blog Seeing the world through a child’s eyes

By Hillel Greene

greene-web (3)Before becoming a parent, I received some advice that I only thought I understood.  Things like, “go to the movies while you can,” “sit down to a nice quiet meal now and then”, and of course the perennial advice given to a parent to be, “get as much sleep as humanly possible while you still have the chance.”  On some basic level I recognized that after having children my personal time and space would become a scarcer and more desirable resource, but I couldn’t grasp the depth of that truth until I experienced it first-hand.

Still, of all the words of parental wisdom that I thought I understood, the one that became really clear only after my child was born was this one: “see the world through a child’s eyes.”  This is common advice given not just to prospective parents, but to all adults everywhere, and I thought I understood what it meant. Look at the world as though you are seeing it for the first time.  Show your appreciation for the simple things we take for granted.  View the world as a giant playground.  This all made sense to me in a theoretical way, but it was only when I witnessed my 10 month old triumphantly raise his fist in the air screaming “Yeaaaaaaahhhhh!” at the sight of every city bus passing through our neighborhood, each time with equal enthusiasm and overflowing with delight, that I finally grasped the magnitude of the expression.  I have found it difficult to convey in words the sheer joy and unfiltered appreciation for life that my child felt at that moment, but I haven’t been able to look at a public bus the same way since.

That got me thinking about all the other ways in my life that I experience the world differently because of my child.  One of my favorite rabbinic teachings comes from Ben Bag who explains what one should do with Torah: “Turn it and turn it, for everything is in it.”  My child’s out of this world enthusiasm for public transportation taught me how to “turn it and turn it,” not just for Torah, but for life. Having witnessed the world through my son’s eyes, how much more inspired am I to engage with it from as many different perspectives, attitudes, and inclinations as there are people in it?  I’d be happy if I even reached half of the underlying sense of joy and gratitude that kids have every day.

As much as I love the Somerville PTJL group’s amazing conversations discussing what and how we want to teach our children, I love even more hearing participant’s stories about what they have learned from their children.  We have responsibilities as parents to think carefully about what we want to pass on to our kids, but our tradition teaches that we have an equal responsibility to be open to what our children are passing over to us.

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