I was sitting in a headmaster’s office. For once, not in trouble. This time, it was to discuss one of my children, and their choice of high school.
The headmaster spoke about academics and culture, extra-murals and sport, all the usual stuff. And then he said: “I am also fascinated by the concept of wonder.”
“Wonder,” he repeated.
I nearly fell off my chair. Was it possible that the head of a big, traditional educational institution would actually identify something as ephemeral, as impossible to put your finger on, as “wonder”?
As if it was an actual thing?
Now here was a guy who spoke my language
But words don’t actually do “wonder” justice, do they.
The closest I ever got to bottling “wonder” with words was describing my daughter, when she was aged one, on the last day of 2015.
I wrote: “We were sitting together in a river, naked, blowing dandelions.”
That’s wonder. Well, I think so.
My son, when he was one, invented a new word, to describe his own developing wonder.
“Vavaire!” he would cry.
It could mean “delight” in French. Or it should (if it doesn’t already). It’s a great word!
There’s an expression in journalism: “Show, don’t tell.”
Bruce Springsteen used it too, in his recent autobiography, Born to run.
It’s why his concerts are so wild and on fire.By the end, after three or four hours, the audience feel like they’ve run the Comrades. He shows, doesn’t tell.
As a Dad, there are two main ways I can tell if I’ve successfully given Beth “wonder”.
First, I can look at all our photos – hiking and biking, gallivanting and whatever rhymes with that, strolling, laughing, splashing and smashing creamy ice-creams into our happy faces.
Second, I have watched with joy as she’s learned to truly see all around her – the rich deli of sensory treasures which the outdoor world offers us. From the simplest new-born acorn, to the most majestic skyline at sunset. She now sees it all.
Actually, there’s a new way I can tell: When Beth is ready for bed, lately, she has asked me: “Daddy, tell me about more babventures, please?”
And so we talk and dream, about our last adventure, at Kogel Bay, sleeping in the back of our Land Rover, the perfect beach, crashing waves and a school of dolphins, right before our eyes
And then we talk about next weekend. About the wonderful, wonder-filled world which awaits us …