I love watching you. It’s one of my very favorite things. I have to tell you a story about watching you this evening, and how it made me think of what I wanted to write to you in this letter.
We were sitting in a hotel pool. Your mom was off playing with Tristan in the big pool, and I was sitting there holding you in the shallow kids’ pool. Tristan was laughing, mom was laughing . . .
. . . and as for you, you were watching. Not just them, but a dozen other people scattered throughout the pool area. Most of the time you just sat and observed, very solemnly and quietly. A couple times you laughed and pointed at the kids in the other pool tossing a ball back and forth and having tons of fun. Once, you noticed Tristan struggling with a pool toy and getting very frustrated, and I watched as your look of concern mirrored the anxiety on his face.
And then, when it became clear that everything was ok, you went back to watching.
I love watching you, watching people. I love the expressions on your face as you catch their moods or their reactions. I love your deep, contemplative gaze as you take in everything around you. I love the little grunts you make as you observe something new for the first time and try to figure it out. I love the way you repeat a sound or react to an idea that was brand new to you only moments before, sometimes whispering it back to yourself before trying it out on me or others for the first time.
I hope you never lose that curiosity . . . that ability to absorb and comprehend and reflect the people and things that move around you. I love the determination with which you strike off in an unexplored direction, halfway to your destination before you even think to look around and make sure someone is there with you. I love the look on your face as you point to some new and undiscovered thing. I love the sound of your voice as you call out “dat!” . . . your way of asking “what’s that?” . . . about very nearly everything around you.
I love the sense of wonder in your eyes.
I love it, too, when the one you’re watching is me. Sometimes I sit there in the dark, only barely able to make out the features on your face as I rock you at night . . . and I see you watching me. In those moments, your eyes seem to bore into me and it feels like you’re reading the back pages of my soul. I don’t even know how one so little can give such a wise, knowing look. It’s moments like those that I wish I could spend even one second seeing inside your mind.
And sometimes I worry. I worry that when I’m worn out and exhausted and you’re asking “what’s that?” for the forty-seventh time in a row, I’ll turn aside your question instead of answering it. I worry that if I do that enough, you’ll stop asking. And I worry that in the moment you do, I’ll feel . . . glad.
I don’t think a child’s sense of wonder dies on its own. I don’t think it’s something we grow out of. I think it’s something that gets damaged . . . sometimes so badly that it stops working.
When I was a young boy who constantly peppered his parents with questions, the way they found relief was to teach me how to find out things for myself. From then on, when my questions got to be too much, the standard answer became, “look it up!”
So I did. And I still do.
I hope that’s something your mom and I can share with you . . . I hope we can nurture the love you already have of discovering and finding new things, first by sharing what we know about them, and then, as my parents did, by showing you how to get beyond our own knowledge and discover things we haven’t found yet, or to discover the things we have for yourself in a new way with a fresh set of eyes.
Most of all, I hope you never tire of studying people. I hope the people around you are always the most important thing to you. Learning and discovering and finding and knowing are wonderful . . . but even more wonderful is learning from, or discovering with.
Finding something you value is a treasure. Finding someone you value is irreplaceable. Knowing something is a gift. Knowing someone is the greatest gift you can possibly give . . . or receive.
So please, my darling daughter, keep watching.
I love you.