Sense of Wonder


Eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands and feet. Five senses. It seems like I was just teaching my toddler the body parts and their purposes. Oh, to experience the world through the senses of a child — the excitement, the passion — about even small things! My daughter, Jessie, is now a tween, but her enthusiastic reactions to everyday experiences still tickle me. She cherishes the moments with all her body parts.

Jessie and I recently spent the afternoon together. Our first stop was a restaurant, where I ordered chili. I tried something different and ordered it in a bread bowl. When the waitress brought it, Jessie’s eyes got so wide you’d have thought I had won the lottery.

“Dad, you’ll always have to order this!”

Jessie sat across from me behind a huge bowl of salad, chatting happily as she tasted the various nuts, cheeses and other toppings that decorated the lettuce. Jessie makes full use of her mouth for talking as well as eating, which sometimes gives my ears the sense they might start bleeding.

After lunch, we shopped. Jessie found a bottle of blue finger nail polish we thought was 99 cents, but it rang up for 37 cents. I’m not sure when her eyes sparkled more, as she celebrated the fabulous deal or later that evening when she showed off her blue fingernails.

After buying the nail polish, Jessie noticed her favorite store was having a sale — the 75 percent off sign in the window was a sight to behold.

“Dad, we need to go there right away!” 

“Jessie, we need to buy sneakers, not lotions and soaps.”

She twinkled her pretty eyes and shoe shopping waited. We left an hour later with a full bag of fragrant treats for her nose. 

A few days later, our friend gave Jessie three bottles of perfume. Jessie sprayed the first on her wrists and rubbed them together. She spritzed the second on her mom’s wrist. “Dad, I have one more to sample.”

“I don’t want to wear ladies’ perfume.”

I said the words — and meant them — but my muscles must not have heard because I held out my hand and Jessie sprayed it, then pulled it to her nose. She then dragged my hand, towing me behind, for her mom to sniff. 

On our shopping trip, we finally found some sneakers for Jessie’s ever-growing feet. After paying for the sneakers, we browsed the department store. “Dad, you’ve got to come and touch the softest rug ever.” “Dad, I love this coat. It’s the softest coat in the entire world.” Jessie repeated this several times, both before and after I purchased the green jacket for her.

On the ride home, Jessie gave the radio buttons on my truck a workout, switching stations to catch songs she liked. Her ears and mine don’t always appreciate the same sounds, but some of her music has grown on me. 

At the beginning of our afternoon, before I ate my chili, I texted a photo of it to Mattie. Jessie’s enthusiasm was so contagious I had to share it. 

When I finished the chili, there was a big hole in the bottom of the bread bowl. For some reason, I felt compelled to take an “after photo.” I picked up the bread and held it so that Jessie’s face was visible through the hole, then snapped the picture with my other hand. When I said “Smile,” she smiled, but added, “Dad, don’t play with your food.”

I’ve taught my girl well. She has taught me, too — to use all my senses, especially a sense of wonder, to get the most out of every day. 

Patrick Hempfing had a 20-year professional career in banking, accounting and auditing before he became a father at age 44. He is now a full-time husband, stay-at-home dad and author of “MoMENts” A Dad Holds On” (available at Follow Hempfing at and on Twitter @patrickhempfing.

Categories: Dads, Lifestyle, Relationships