"Grass!" exclaimed my 9-year-old daughter, with flashing eyes and a buoyant grin. Grass? you may be thinking . His daughter became excited about grass? Well, not exactly. You see, she was not actually excited about the grass, but by what she intended to do with it. But to understand that, we must back up a bit — back to the two weeks last summer when my family and 1 were able to share a rare but memorable vacation in the mountains of beautiful Wyoming.
Through a child's eyes
We live in the city most of the year. And not just any city, but Las Vegas, Nevada. Now, Las Vegas is well known for jet-set gambling action and star-studded nightclubs brimming with big name entertainers. But it's not exactly known as the home of rural living or the springboard of the back-to-nature movement. So when we wanted a vacation and change of scenery, we went up north to the breathtaking outdoors of Wyoming, with its beautiful parks, lakes and mountains. And grass! And not just grass, but another commodity even more rare in downtown Las Vegas — cows. Now, I've seen lots of cows, and so has my daughter. But usually they were far off in a field, only to be looked at from a distance. So when we camped a few nights at a ranch in Wyoming, my daughter just couldn't pass up the chance to see, pet and talk to the four penned-up cattle just a few yards from our campsite. And when she discovered that they would actually eat grass out of her hands if she pulled it from the ground and gave it to them, she became ecstatic with delight. And so did 1 from watching her and seeing the utter glee with which she attended to the task of feeding the lazy, cud-chewing bovines. For literally hours she would scuttle back and forth from the grass patch to the pen, passing handfuls of munchy grass to their waiting mouths.
Now there was nothing especially unusual about those cattle — at least not to me. But my daughter certainly found them to be objects of great delight. And 1 must admit that 1 learned a lesson from her that day. The lesson is that our children have wonderful traits of love, concern, curiosity or affection that too often get overlooked by parents intent upon rearing future doctors, lawyers, presidents and first ladies. That is, we are quick to see great and impressive talents like intellect or musical ability in our kids, but we often overlook the simple, more mundane qualities that compose the core of personality or character. These are qualities like curiosity, sharing with a friend or the affection and excitement of a child for an animal. And yet, it is these subtle traits (I call them the "little gifts of greatness") that compose the central tiles in the mosaic of a child's character, and that at times can give a parent the greatest pleasure with the least effort. After all, to see a child's outstanding music ability or athletic prowess requires encouraging the child, praising him and paying for lessons, while to enjoy the pleasant little personality quirks of our offspring requires only observation and appreciation. Come to think of it, learning to appreciate the little gifts of greatness in our children makes us parents take the time to look, think, listen, share and appreciate. Certainly, for a parent to admire the subtle joys of his offspring's gentle character traits is a refreshing change from the you'd-better-be-good and perform-or-else attitudes we sometimes fall into. After all, the ability of a parent to find in his child the same intrinsic worth that a child can find in a cow is important indeed. It is right up there with grass.