On my parenting journey, the line between teacher and student is
often muddied. I have grand ideas of wisdom and value that I want to
impart to my children while they are still under my wing. My children,
on the other hand, have no agenda, no plan for all that they need to
teach their mother, and yet many times I know that I am the recipient
of their wisdom. While I fight my drive to "do," they
simply "are". They ride with the moment, savoring every bit
of their current existence. Lately, I've been taking notes - as all
good students must do on occasion - and my notes have revealed a
treasure of wisdom learned from my children. The most important things
to learn in life are really very simple.
1. Stay close to the ones you love.
nurse a stuffed animal, a wooden block, or even a truck at the
insistence of a nursing toddler! Our children seem to be saying
"This, too, deserves to be loved by you, Mama!" Looking at
my own life, I struggle with many things: wastefulness (I have been
known to throw away something with seemingly no value only because I
have tripped over it 100 times); "Jones disease" (the
mentality that takes over when we covet new things because what we
own doesn't measure up to the Jones' belongings); and too many
conveniences (which makes me see less value in simple things). I
have much to learn from my little ones in this area, and it will be
a life-long struggle for them to teach me, I'm sure.
Many of us are saddened by the transient pattern of our society.
Even more alarming is the transient pattern of families. . . the
taxi driver mom, the workaholic dad, the kids running from music to
dance to sports and more. Whatever happened to home? We all have
houses, but do we have homes? We all struggle with this transient
pull in some way or another. When I look at my children, I see a
baby who wants to be near his mama and daddy all the time, except
for brief periods of exploration or visits to others' arms. I also
see a little girl who thrives on lots of at-home time, weaving in
and out of the activities of other family members. Being close to
the ones they love the most is the main stabilizing factor in the
lives of our children.
2. Do a few things and do them well.
Have you ever read the same book to a toddler 25 times in one
day? Or watched a baby throw laundry from a hamper over and over as
you throw it back in? The natural, unhampered attention span and
focusing ability of children are amazing. When their lives are not
invaded by unnecessary media, chaotic adult schedules, or rigidly
structured activities, children are very focused and take delight in
doing simple tasks over and over. My children are challenging me to
re-examine the activities that fill our days. We are trying to
schedule our errands one day per week, and hone down our outside
involvement to a few important activities. This allows us time to
concentrate on home, cherished relationships, and favorite hobbies -
all of which benefit from my increased and focused attention.
3. Consider the potential for good in all things.
Many moms have pretended
4. Eat when you're hungry.
Ahh… how much we could learn from the breastfeeding infant. Eat
when you're hungry, stop when you're full, reject that which is bad
for you, like the tongue-thrusting action of an infant not ready for
solids. A new mother asked me recently if her three-month-old baby
could possibly be ready for solids, because he kept grabbing Oreo
cookies from his mom. This is a case of an adult projecting her
unhealthy eating attitudes on her baby instead of vice-versa. We all
struggle with the "I see it - it looks good - I eat it"
syndrome. There is so much to learn from our precious little ones,
who are in touch with their natural eating instincts. They challenge
us to examine the place food has in our lives. Does it nourish our
bodies or feed our emotions?
5. Sleep when you're tired. I've always marveled at how my
children can drop off to sleep in the middle of a noisy party, in
the middle of a meal, or even in the middle of a conversation. They
have no inhibitions about when and where they should sleep! When
they're tired, they just close their eyes.
An amazing thing happened in our family recently. We moved into a
new home, and lived without curtains for a few weeks. We began to
wake with the sun and go to bed shortly after sundown, and felt
better rested and more alert. Where we once moaned at the creeping
sun in the morning, we began to welcome it. As adults, many of us
ignore the signals that our bodies give us regarding our physical
needs and we often suffer the havoc this wreaks on us.
6. Be curious and adventurous.
When we embark on new adventures, my children are so excited
that they can't stop bouncing! One evening, I found an old rubber
ball that my one-year-old son had never seen before. We started
rolling it across the floor, and he was so excited, his enthusiasm
made him look like Tigger bouncing around our living room! My
reaction, on the other hand, most likely would have been "Oh -
a ball - seen one, seen them all."
On another day, when a city employee showed up at our door to fix
our water meter, my daughter wanted to know all about his family,
his job, and whatever else he wanted to share with her. Her natural
curiosity drives her to learn and explore. I usually squelch my own
questions and curiosities because I figure that my time demands that
I do more important things. Now I find myself wondering … who was
the meter reader in my basement? I suppose I could ask my daughter.
7. Look at things from a new perspective.
So often, people get stuck in ruts - especially with regard
to their perspective of the world. How many times I have looked at a
situation with a critical eye, only to find myself having to
reconsider my position later on, when I am forced to deal with the
same situation in my own life. Have you ever watched a child look at
the world? Young children, especially, inspire me - they stand on
their heads, hang upside down from trees, swing as high as possible,
and peer through empty toilet paper tubes! Many conflicts could be
averted and stress lifted from our shoulders if we would adopt the
principle of shifting our perspective.
8. Sing Random Songs.
One night recently, I was up late reading a good book. My
one-year-old had been asleep for several hours, but he started
squirming and fussing to nurse. I latched him on and continued to
read. Suddenly, he stopped nursing, looked straight up at the
ceiling, and launched into a musical baby-babble. When he was
finished, he went back to nursing and soon drifted off to sleep.
That's living in the moment! I have come to enjoy making up songs
about my children. These random songs are a highlight for all of us.
9. Find joy in simple things.
I have watched my daughter fill her treasure box with old
railroad ties found on hikes, pieces of gravel which she calls
"golden rocks," and old pieces of rubber that she
treasures as "old tires." Lately, she has been bringing me
dandelions in plastic cup-vases. I am learning to appreciate the
beauty in these weedy flowers.
10. Have faith.
A child's faith is pure and
unwavering. It seems as we grow into adults, our desire to control the
circumstances of our lives leeches our ability to trust. But children
live in the present, and are often oblivious to the future. My
daughter talks about birth, life, and death with an attitude of hope
and trust while I struggle with fear.
I often ponder a certain scripture from the gospel of Mark
(10:14-15), in which Jesus says, "Let the children come to me; do
not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a
child will not enter it." I can recall many times when I have
placed expectations on my child that rob her of her chance to be a
child. From this gospel I learned that there are virtues of childhood
that I need to encourage and protect in my children, and that I should
strive to take on these virtues myself.
My children are teaching me to embrace life, to accept people at
face value, to trust, and to take care of myself. I am a tough
student, but they are such loving and forgiving teachers, that I
should do okay.