How the Wrong Change Led to a Moment of Childhood Wonder
Every Friday, Sophie’s school sells cups of frozen yogurt for $2.50 when the afternoon bell rings. Last Friday (and like every week before), Sophie wanted to buy herself a frozen yogurt. She pulled $3 out of her backpack and ran off to purchase her cookies and cream treat.
She returned from the purchase looking ecstatic as she ran across the playground toward me. Even for frozen yogurt, I was surprised at her level of excitement.
“Mommy, look what I got!” Sophie shouted as she ran toward me. “Instead of getting two quarters in change back from my one dollar bill, I got this really cool Chinese quarter!”
She shows me a silver coin that was the exact size of a quarter, but was a foreign coin and most likely not worth 25 cents.
I immediately started thinking we should return to the yogurt sale booth and ask for a replacement since she was (inadvertently) shorted a quarter. I started to suggest out loud that she go back and get the proper change.
But before I could finish my sentence, Sophie looked at me with shock and asked why on earth would she even consider returning the coin.
So instead of demanding proper change, I shut up and gave in to Sophie’s wonder and curiosity about the coin.
Sophie continued to revel in the coin’s possibility “Isn’t this amazing? I got a coin from China. Or Japan. Or somewhere else. I wonder how much it’s worth. It could be valuable!”
She then talked about sharing the coin with my dad (her granddad), whom she knows takes yearly trips to China for his work.
“Do you think Granddad will know what this coin is worth? I should save it because one day, he may take me to China with him and I can use this coin there.”
The next day, Sophie wrote and mailed him a letter telling him all about the coin and asking for his advice in deciphering its origin.
This simple, little moment reminded me how incredibly grateful I am that – at 8-years-old – Sophie is still in awe of these little things like a foreign coin.
And here we are, as adults, all grown up; so jaded and focused on reality. When did we lose that wonder? When do we go from curious to cynical? From thinking everything is possible, to thinking things are more impossible than probable? When does that change?
I think about myself at her age and rack my brain, wondering if I ever experienced that type of magical thinking. When did I lose my wonder? I don’t remember.
Seeing Sophie and the curiosity and awe made me smile. I felt a satisfaction that I hadn’t felt for a long time. And this may sound condescending, but I was proud of myself, as a parent, for not crushing that moment of joy by correcting her with accurate information.
So, here’s to finding the wonder — whether it’s a shiny foreign coin or something else!
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