Last weekend, I took my 2-year-old grandson, Rio, to the park so he could run around and see the duck pond. My goal was to get him outside for a while, let him burn some energy, and teach him about the ducks. They’re actually geese, but duck pond sounds cuter, so that’s what we call it.
He had no goals. Two-year-olds don’t need goals.
That was the first of several lessons I learned that day. I had expected to be the teacher, but I had it backward. My grandson helped me remember things we’re born knowing but forget in the process of becoming an adult.
Rio had a sense of wonder. As soon as we got out of the car and walked 50 feet into the park, he looked up at the sky. It was a cold day, with big, pillowy clouds drifting across the sky, and he found joy in watching them. I’d forgotten how magical and hypnotic clouds could be.
Next, he stared at the sycamore trees and watched their leaves rustle in the wind. He laughed and tried to catch the leaves as they fell. At that moment, nothing could have amused him more.
He never asked what time it was, when we were leaving, or what we were going to do next.
His curiosity was constant, endless. He was always on the search for sticks, big and small. He knew that a stick could be used for many things. He scraped the ground with them, rapped a drumbeat with them on trees and benches, waved them in the air like a flag, and stacked them into piles. No thought of a stick being used as a weapon. No need for toys or electronic devices, unlike at home. Just sticks.
There were a few kids playing in the park with a parent and a regular procession of people out for their morning dog walk. Rio said hi to everyone and stuck out his hand for a high-five with a few 4- and 5-year-olds, who weren’t sure how to respond. But they all said hi back. His emerging language skills are typical for his age, part vocabulary and part babble. He tried to strike up conversations with enthusiasm. It was clear he didn’t care what people looked like, how old they were, or whether they said hello first. No judgment. No fear. Just a sincere desire to connect.
My biggest revelation from our hour in the park was that Rio was fully present no matter what he was doing—searching for sticks, petting a dog, running across the lawn, or looking at the sky. He never asked what time it was, when we were leaving, or what we were going to do next. He was, every second we were there, completely and absolutely in the moment.
I wish I could be. Don’t we all.
Brad Blake, ’80, MBA ’85, is managing partner at Blake Griggs Properties and lives in Alamo, California. Email him at email@example.com.