Where Do The Sparkles Go?

As anyone who works with children knows they have a sparkle.  A light behind their eyes which makes every day bright.  But where does that sparkle come from? And as adults where does it go?

Sometimes places are have sparkle too. The local groms walking back from an epic adventure. Currarong May 2015

This week on camp we’ve had a group of particularly sparkly children.  Who despite turning blue upon numerous occasions still managed to keep smiling, trying and working to sail to the best of their ability.  Every task we gave these wonderful children they took on with such excitement, light and enthusiasm it was impossible not to be infected.  So where did this sparkly-ness come from?

Not a care in the world.  Jock McDonald June 2015.

I think it comes from innocence.  From not having worries larger than who you’re going to play with at recess.  From being nurtured in all the right ways.  I also think everyone is born with sparkles, but a number things can extinguish that sparkle.  Depending on your environment, depends on how long you keep sparkling.

Sadly, some of the previous kids on camp had lost a lot of their sparkly eyes already.  One of them was 7.  But putting my finger on why it had disappeared was difficult.  I think in the case of this child he already felt inadequate to his older brother and his parents didn’t help that.   This boy dealt with that by acting up.  Another boy, a 9 year old this time, we had also arrived with no sparkle.  But by the end of every day at camp with us his sparkle had returned and got stronger.  But as soon as he saw his mother, BANG.  Sparkle gone.  It’s moments like that which make me sad.  Where you see a poor parent/child relationship during puberty it’s only going to get worse.

The children I taught in Ghana often had a sparkle but it was of a different kind. It was more of an eagerness to learn or for attention but by the time a lot of the children had hit 11 their eyes had turned dark and hard.  But like I said, environment has a lot to do with sparkle times. A child I’d claimed as my own not only sparkled with her eyes, but with her very being like no one else I’ve ever met.  She was maybe 1 and a half so her sparkle years were in their prime.  Before the world could make her hard.  Sadly she passed away shortly after I left Ghana.   But I hold onto the hope that she’s still sparkling somewhere happier.

Back to my puberty theories.  Puberty is a time that is tough for everyone involved, the teen and anyone who dare be around them.  Puberty is the time, I’ve decided, when most people reduce their sparkle time.  Whether it be because being excited isn’t cool anymore, you’re suddenly very aware of not nly yourself but everyone else around you as well, or simply it take too much energy to sparkle and your body needs it elsewhere.  I live in the hope that sparkly-ness can be reignited.  I’ve seen it happen. My middle brother left the UK last summer, dejected, unmotivated and unbearable.  He returned from 5 weeks in the Indian Himalayas with a light behind his eyes I hadn’t seen in years and a drive to do things he didn’t even know possible previous to the trip.  Both my mother and I cried tears of pure joy at this transformation, because believe it or not, sparkly-ness induces a lot of happiness.

Sparkling? PC: Stephanie Burke.

This is not to say adults don’t sparkle.  I’m simply suggesting it’s less common to meet a sparkly adult.  Adults spend so much more of their energy worrying and stressing about things, they don’t have enough energy to sparkle as often as children.  Very real concerns come into play, like where are you going to live, how do you afford to eat.  A lot of people are forced by circumstance to into things they don’t enjoy, which I think could be largely responsible for extinguishing sparkly-ness.

That leads me to my parents.  My mum is a sparkler.  Not in a burn bright and fast kind of way, but more of the embers at the end of the fire which refuse to be put out kind of way.  Through numerous adverse situations she’s always found the energy to sparkle.  My father is different.  Dad seems to be able to turn his sparkle on and off when he wants.  He has twinkly eye though, full of surprises, plans and passions – namely for triathlon kit.  Maybe this is why they first got together – their mutual sparkly-ness.  Who knows.  All I can say is I’m glad they did.


Not only my parents, but also my friend Steph, have shown me that your sparkle never has to die.  And if it ever does, you should try bloody hard to get it back, because without it who’s going to light up your world?


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