I’m over at my mom’s house, introducing an 80’s movie to my kids. Though the VHS is old and cheesy, my children enjoy the adventure of the story and revel in the experience of watching something I did as a child. After the film is over, I snatch kids and put on shoes, trying to get everyone out the door since it’s way past their bedtime, but something triggers a song. My mom starts singing the melody, and mentions how hard the tune is to dispel. Laughing, she chants the ditty again. The song may be a little irritating, but I can’t help but laugh: “Thanks for that, Mom.” The song echoes in my head for the next hour, but it still carries charm because so many delightful memories are attached to the song.
Though we as adults don’t always appreciate redundant actions, children adore repeating a song over and over. Or a book. Or a movie. Or an activity.
“Read it again, Mommy.” But you have the story memorized and the pages are falling apart. “Please!”
“Swing again, Mommy.” But Mommy is getting tired, Sweetie. “Oh, just one more time.”
“Play it again, Mommy.” How about we watch something different? “But, I love it.”
They don’t mind having PB&J every. single. day. My son can play hours upon hours of Go Fish and Checkers. My middle child would wear the same shorts and t-shirt every day, if I let him. They cherish routines and repetition because it grants them a sense of security. Knowing what to expect and when to expect it allows kids to flourish. Understanding the boundaries and intentions of their world, they desire the predictable because it’s what they know and love. Even so, the redundant doesn’t become dull.
Children may enjoy the “mundane”, but mundane doesn’t carry a negative connotation like it does for us “mature” people. The same bedtime routine doesn’t bore them: it delights. Replacing the lens of adult hum-drum with the childhood lens of wonder, we see the delight of “doing it again and again and again” because we see that children don’t grow cynical and fatigued from the wonders of the world. To them, snowfall still holds pleasure. A butterfly on a flower still captivates attention. A drum solo in an all-to-familiar song can still inspire dance. In these aspects of contentment, we see the God-like quality of pleasure in a child.
No one explains this concept better than G. K. Chesterton: “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we” (Orthodoxy). What aspect of God’s creation am I overlooking, and am I passing on this lethargy to my children?
Kids will eventually phase out of their repetitive habits (they want more adventure and variety), and then you’ll start hearing things like, “I’m bored, Mom.” Yet, we can uncover creative magic when we allow ourselves to explore through seasons of boredom as well. And, realizing that the television isn’t and shouldn’t be our only source of adventure,
we bring our kids along to recapture the beauty of simplicity. We catch fireflies at night, we rock in a hammock under the stars, we sleep in a tent in the living room and tell them childhood stories, we snatch bouquets of wildflowers and then sketch them on paper. We bake cookies, churn homemade ice cream, and pop popcorn. We laugh over silly knock-knock jokes we’ve heard a hundred times, and wade in the creek, skipping rocks. We ride bikes in the woods. We experience what we’ve experienced before, and yet, the beauty and wonder remain.
And through these intentional experiences of uncomplicated time with our children, they recapture the beauty of life’s simple rhythms. And perhaps you might even hear your otherwise unimpressed child say, “Let’s do it again.”
Kristin L. Hanley has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and teaches for Regent University as an online composition professor. She also homeschools her three children and leads a women’s Bible study at her church. Her first book, Navigating a Sea of Emotions, came out this year.