“Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl
This weekend I did something that I had never done before with my kids. Seattle has been pretty late to the game of mass transit for a big city. But in the last 5 years, we’ve built a pretty good light rail system that goes north-south in the city. From my neighborhood I can go to downtown Seattle and the airport. Which are places I rarely go these days so I’ve never ridden it.
My kids and I had a free Saturday morning so we got on the light rail system and rode it without any destination. We ended up getting off by the baseball stadium but without any game going on, there wasn’t much open around there so we hopped back on and rode one stop north to the international district. Then we wandered until we found a cute little independent coffee shop in which to have a donut and go to the bathroom.
Walking back to the light rail, we came across a motorcycle policeman who was putting out traffic signs for the soccer game later in the day. He offered to let my kids sit on his motorcycle which Miss O was delighted to do, and she got to turn on the flashing lights and honk the horn (it’s really loud).
It was like we were tourists in our own town. It was so fun and it illustrated something that Dr. Alison Gopnik, a cognitive psychologist from UC Berkley talks about. Spotlight awareness vs lantern awareness. If you imagine spotlight awareness, it’s a focused beam on whatever we are aiming to do. It’s the type of attention grown-ups use most of the time.
And lantern awareness is like a light held high in the dark that illuminates everything in a radius. It’s the child’s way of looking at the world and what makes them so darn hard to get out of the door in the morning – because they are looking at everything that might be interesting and not just their shoes and socks.
Mr. D is at a perfect stage for lantern awareness. He constantly asks, “What’s that?” because he’s heard a noise that he can’t identify. And I can’t hear it at all because there are so many noises around that I’ve filtered out because they aren’t important to what I’m doing.
But spending the morning wandering with no agenda, I was able to experience a couple of hours of lantern awareness. And it struck me that this is why traveling can be so good for us. When we get dropped into a new environment and pay attention to everything around, it refreshes all our senses. Or walking in the woods, floating in a sensory tank, or just following around a two-year-old.
For me, doing something I hadn’t ever done before with two kids in tow felt like an adventure. I didn’t know how the ticketing system work and though I had a general knowledge of where the light rail system went, I didn’t know exactly. It’s amazing how refreshing some uncertainty felt.
My two-year-old was totally delighted to have us join him in his element. As soon as we got back to where we started he said, “Do it again?”