Smile variables

In the early days of psychology (which is a very young science – only 133 years old), humans were thought to be born tabula rasa, or ‘blank slates’.  Scientific wisdom of the day stated that babies were born with brains that were 100% empty, totally void of any thoughts or feelings.  It was believed that everything a person became (from a mental perspective) was completely the result of their environment.

Later science posited (and proved) that actually, people are born with internal mechanisms (genes) that affect their cognitive development.  So while the external environment certainly helps shape people, some issues (like dyslexia, schizophrenia, even anxiety and depression) have a biological basis, and are not the results of an individual, parental, or societal failing.

The most recent science on human development now shows that a baby’s environment in utero influences how the baby will grow in all facets of her life: certainly physically, but also mentally, cognitively, even emotionally.

To say that people are complex is perhaps one of the biggest understatements ever uttered.  Who we all become is an amazingly intricate web of genetics, environment, social structures and support, internal drive and motivation, personal resilience, openness to learning…. Yet perhaps one of the most influential impacts on a baby/child/adolescent/young adult is his/her parents (or parental figures).

My friend J (a different friend from a few days ago) sent me the following note:

“The wallpaper next to my bed has a flowery pattern. The photos below show this design at different distances. My oldest (10) daughter asked me if I could see the smile in the wall paper. I didn’t know what she was talking about so she showed me.

If you look at the yellow flowers in the third picture, in the center of the flower there is a clear smile. Two eyes and a mouth. The center flower is the most prominent, but the smile is in all three.

Now I always wake up to a smile. Three of them to be precise. Actually about 100 as I look around the room.”

I love the image of my friend’s young daughter showing him hidden joy in an otherwise “ordinary” environment.  Equally importantly, I love that my friend and his wife are raising children who have the ability to see covert beauty in what can be a harsh world.  I love that these girls have minds skewed towards happiness, and that they have the social/environmental/familial support to cultivate the sustained development and further growth of that incredibly precious resource (namely, joy).  While this father-daughter exchange now helps my friend wake up to wall paper smiles every day, it provided my heart with a smile of its own.


About Stef

A "serious" gal who is trying to remember to lighten up and smile.
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12 Responses to Smile variables

  1. what a precious moment. Thank you for sharing it with us. made my heart smile.


  2. Kids are so much better at spotting that stuff than adults! But I also think it’s the way some brains are wired and others aren’t. A few months ago I took a photo of a rocky hill at a local county park, where I clearly spotted a man’s profile, and later on realized there was also a dog’s profile next to it. Only a quarter of the people I show the photo to see what I see, but both my kids spotted it right away and their dad didn’t. So I guess I gave them my genes to spot this kind of stuff. This is also a great gift when looking for shapes in clouds, something we love doing.


    • Stef says:

      I think observation goes hand-in-hand with imagination, and with compassion. It sounds like you and your children are rich in these resources. 🙂


  3. Fascinating comments that wake me up in the morning (when I’m first reading them) and allow me to think all day long. Yes, I knew as I watched my children grow that they were born with distinct personalities, and I see it even more clearly in my baby grandchildren. It’s glorious.


    • Stef says:

      It’s amazing how even teeny, tiny, new babies have distinct personalities. They exhibit preferences, aversions, attitudes, and energies before they even “know” how to. So fun. And so fun to watch – I imagine especially as a mom and a grandma. You’re a lucky lady! 🙂


  4. Pingback: The J’s have it | Smile, kiddo.

  5. Sylvia Bell says:

    Ok …have to tell a Stefanie story. I am sure you were too young to remember this. You were really big into Sesame Street, and the letter of the day was the letter I.

    We were driving down the country road going home, and you kept saying, “look at all of those I’s”. I kept looking, and looking, and could not see any “eyes”. You kept insisting they were there, so I pulled over, and asked you to show me. You pointed to all the fence upright supports, and sure enough, they all looked like the letter “I”. That was the day I started looking at this world in a totally different manner, thru the eyes of an unjaded child. What a great lifelong gift you have given me.


    • Stef says:

      I don’t remember the experience, but you have told this story before, and I smile every time I hear it.

      What I think is cool about the story, though, is that you didn’t dismiss me, but instead took the time to stop the car, turn around, give me your undivided attention, and ask, “Show me what you see.” Talk about an amazing gift to give a child – the gift of being heard, and understood. So if you got a gift out of the exchange, it was in part a gift you helped give to both me and yourself. 🙂


  6. Pingback: Day 66 « Three Daily Delights

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