The Lens We Look Through

The other day on a weekend I was trying to get my children out the door to go to the zoo. I looked over and both my children were lying on the floor near the back door looking at a lady bug.

When was the last time you laid on the ground to look at something? My dad used to joke that he knew he was getting older because he’d bend over to tie his shoes and look around for anything else he needed to do when he was down there.

There’s a scientific reason that adults aren’t usually found on the floor looking at insects and children are. According to Dr. Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, young brains are wired to be attracted to the things that can teach them the most. Adult brains are wired to be attracted to things that reward them the most. And unless you are an entomologist, you probably aren’t rewarded for studying bugs.

But there are times when the adult brain gets stuck. In our grooved pathways that Dr. Gopnik likens to boulevards, adults can cruise back and forth much quicker than children but we don’t always rethink how we got there. Kids brains have neural pathways that look more like the streets of Old Paris. Windy, slow-going but able to approach something from many directions.

Getting stuck might be in a mindset or unable to solve a problem. We can be in a rut in a relationship or unable to see the other side of an argument. Or we can just be downright bored and completely unable to see what it could take to change it.

And that’s when we need to do something entirely different.  When we are stuck, the best advice is to do something else. We can go for a walk as @boblorentson suggested the other day on Troy’s post, I’ve Been Thinking about Thinking. Or we can learn to play. Or we can travel. We can even get down onto the floor with some kids. Doing something different will help us come back to what we are doing with newfound perspective and energy.

The other day, my first reaction to seeing my kids on the floor looking at the ladybug was frustration. I was stuck in my mindset of getting us to where we wanted to go efficiently. But after a moment I relented and got down on the floor and looked at the lady bug too. There was awe to be found in a tiny bug spreading her wings and twitching her antennae in a pool on sunlight. There was also irony that I didn’t want to take time to look at a living creature because I was too busy trying to get us to the zoo. We ushered the lady bug out the door before leaving ourselves, still awash in the wonder of when you do something different.

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(featured photo from Pexels)


29 thoughts on “The Lens We Look Through

  1. Thanks for sharing this wonderful account, Wynne. Great reminder about keeping our sense of wonder!

  2. Wynne, this is a wonderful revelation. As we grow older and (tired), life simply becomes a routine with old and new habits. The urge to learn and discover take a backseat, and we often fool ourselves into believing that circumstances, responsibilities, and prior experiences have limited our joys and left us with nothing but mundane duties. It’s not life or the world around us that makes us rigid and frustrated, but the surrender of willingness and the murder of our own wants and beliefs to fit into a stereotypical society that robs us of creativity and individual uniqueness. Being different or standing out has never been looked upon as a good thing. And we try our best to put on that boring mask and step into a line that is really going nowhere. Thanks for sharing this. 🙂

    1. What an insightful description of the patterns we can fall into as adults, Terveen! Yes, we don’t want to be in the line going nowhere doing nothing but our mundane duties!! Time to stand out! Thanks for a great comment.

  3. Thank you for reminding me there truly is more to life than work and the daily/weekly routine. Today, I’m going to do just as you suggest: do something different!

  4. Your delightful “Stop and smell the roses” (or watch the ladybugs 😊) post Wynne brings to mind a quote by John Ortberg … “We are drawn to children, saints and poets because they see things we have forgotten to see.”

    1. Yes! And in doing something different – like taking an internship after retirement or moving to another country… 🙂 Thanks, Natalie!

  5. I suppose this explains why years of working for dentists, when they had trouble on making anterior teeth look straight; if they took a break to check on another patient, the difficult case was always easier after the break.

    1. What an interesting example, Kristina! I think you are right – we see different things after we walk away and come back to it. Thank you for adding this to the conversation!

  6. I love your recognition of the irony due frustration because the kids were too busy looking at a living creature to get ready to look at different living creatures.
    I find that I’m too ‘busy’ thinking about the mundane things – bills, food, appointments to enjoy or even bother to think about the interesting things. I’ve had dome time off lately and my perspective has simply shifted – now I spend more time focused on the mundane but from the lounge. I need to develop a different perspective and focus. Rejuvenate my wonder in life.

    1. Thank you for this comment. I thought that irony was pretty funny when I realized it too. 🙂

      Your comment highlights what is so interesting about shifting our perspective – and not just to the lounge as you say. It’s amazing how hard it is to stay focused on the interesting things in life – but always so invigorating when we figure it out. Sending my best in your pursuit!

  7. Wow I really loved this one! Taking time to “stop and small the roses” from both a scientific person and a child like perspective. Well done!

    1. Thank you, LaShelle. I commented on our thread from last week that I visited your blog but couldn’t find a way to either like or follow you. I’m so sorry to read about your home invasion. I hope you and your son are recovering well! Sending my best!

  8. Thanks for the fun and informative post, and the mention. I found it particularly ironic that you used ladybugs to make your point, because I couldn’t ignore ladybugs if I tried. Our home is apparently situated in exactly the right setting that makes ladybugs (actually invasive Asian lady beetles) want to move in with us. They somehow get in the house starting in November, and this is now March, and we still have to deal with anywhere from 10 to 50 of them a day. EVERY DAY! I may be an environmental scientist, but damn it, this is my environment!
    I think I need to go for another walk.

    1. Wow, that is really interesting! I need to send my kids over to your house – that is a lot of invasive Asian lady beetles. A walk sounds like a great idea!

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