In this season of the Advent of the Christ Child’s birth, I have spent some time pondering the purpose of anticipation and hope. I love this season, and the anticipation of Christmas and what that means for each of us! This anticipation is our active practice of hope in our Lord and Savior. Thinking on this led me to also ponder the importance of hope, and of anticipation.
Anticipation is more than just waiting. It is a hopeful waiting, holding in faith for a positive outcome. We all need hope. There is scientific research that shows how important hope is in our neural development. But we not only need hope physically, we need it mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. Without hope, there is nothing to look forward to, nothing to live for.
This world, this life experience, can be a frightening place at times. Many are living right now without hope. We cannot survive long-term without it. So let that be motivation enough for us to reach out to as many of our human family as we can. Reach out in service, in smiles, in lending a hand at the store, in “never suppress[ing] a generous thought.”1 If it comes to mind and it uplifts, SAY IT. DO IT. BE IT.
I am also pondering how to help our children have hope. This of course involves so many different aspects, and must be a part of our own practice and way of life. But thinking about this led me to remember what I had learned in one of my early childhood trainings about anticipation.
There is a bouncing song we do in Toddler Class called “Macaroni.” We sing the song while bouncing the children on our laps to the beat:
I have a little pony
His name is Macaroni.
He trots and trots and then he stops…. (here is where we wait in anticipation for their FAVORITE part)
My funny little pony,
Macaroooooooooni. (adult dips the child back gently, and back up again)
Children LOVE this song so much! After several repetitions (practicing hope), they know what to anticipate, and that gives them faith and hope in what will follow. They giggle in delight as they wait – they can hardly do so – and when that moment comes, it is thoroughly experienced with every fiber of their being. You see, children do this. They are 100% in the moment – they experience with ALL of their person: body, mind and spirit. They hear, feel, see and even smell the moment, and sometimes they even taste it. They are sensory-motor learners.
This is great news for us as parents! Because our children are sensory-motor learners, all it takes to lay the foundation for future learning (like the ability to hope) is to move together through joyful experiences that lay that specific foundation. Anticipation lays the neural foundation for hope. Falling backward and then being lifted up again lays the foundation for getting up when we fall, or fail for that matter.
What a wonderful gift – to help lay these foundations NOW, in such a way that does even more than laying the foundation – we get to experience them joyfully, and TOGETHER. We laugh, we play, we bond together and we all have hope in the future of our children. And they can feel our hope in them. Every child deserves a parent who hopes in them personally.
So, when you are enjoying experiences like these with your littles, know you are doing a whole lot more than having fun. You are giving them an opportunity to anticipate – to experience and practice hope, and desire to have more of it in their lives.
We have much in this life to hope for, and this season of Advent reminds us so. May the spirit of this hopeful season remain with you always.
- Camilla Kimball