Almost four years ago, when I found out I was pregnant, I panicked.
The idea of an entire human life, entrusted to me, dependent entirely on me, was terrifying. Even though I was a teacher, I thought I wasn’t up to the task of parenting.
Turns out I was wrong, of course, and now instead of a classroom full of students, I have just one student—my daughter. Funny thing is, I’m pretty sure I learn just as much from her as she does from me. Maybe more.
I believe that children come to teach us. Here’s what I’ve learned from my daughter, now three, so far.
1. Dancing is Fun: I’ve always had this big hang-up about dancing. I thought I looked stupid and had no rhythm and refused to ever dance in public. I think it stems from being kicked out of ballet class in first grade for not being graceful enough, but whatever the reason, I convinced myself that dancing was impossible. And then my daughter came along and she loved moving to music. It came naturally to her.
She danced before she walked. Now she pretty much dances instead of walking. She even dances while sitting in her car seat. Seeing her dance so instinctively, with no inhibition whatsoever ignited a joy in me and a desire to dance too, to dance with her, even in public, even at crowded parties. I’ve never had such a good time as I have twirling across a dance floor, hand in hand with my little girl, as she smiles like a supernova.
2. All Messes Can Always Be Cleaned Up: Neurotic, Anal, OCD. Before my daughter, I’d regularly been called all of these things. An avid hater of disorder, stickiness, clutter, junk and chaos, I spent (ok wasted) a lot of time being fastidious and actively avoiding anything potentially messy. With children, this is absolutely impossible. For a long time I fought a losing battle, but only when I surrendered did I finally figure out that messes were ok.
In fact, children learn from immersing themselves in whatever they’re doing (literally) be it eating spaghetti, playing with play-do, painting, digging in the dirt or getting into the Tupperware drawer and dragging out every single piece to spread on the kitchen floor. Take this idea a step further and apply it to adulthood. Grown-ups learn from making messes too, although ours are usually more metaphorical.
Messes aren’t the end of the world and they can always be fixed. It’s okay to make a mess, as long as you clean it up.
3. Mostly, We All Just Need Hugs: Most kids are natural huggers. They hug each other so passionately that they fall on the ground and roll around and it’s hilarious to them. Hugs feel good and they ground us when we feel out of our heads. Children know this.
When my daughter is crabby, whiny and a pain in the butt, instead of punishing her or snapping back at her, I ask her if she needs a hug. Nine times out of ten she says she does. A little affection goes a long way. Even with adults.
4. Wear Whatever You Want: Don’t worry about trends or what other people will say. Wear what makes you feel royal, magnificent and exceptional, even if it’s a tiara to the grocery store or a tutu on the beach. It’s incredibly freeing.
5. We Are All Connected to the Universe: Since my daughter has been able to talk, she’s been telling me, very matter-of-factly, about when she was “in Heaven.” She recounts a time before she was born where she says she was up with God. According to her, she says she decided she was ready to “come to Mommy and Daddy” so she told God (The Universe, The Source, Goddess, whatever you want to call It) and God said “okay” and all of a sudden she was in Mommy’s belly and it was all pink, which I imagine it would be, right? The freakiest part is that she says she didn’t come alone. Her cousin accompanied her.
Guess what? My sister and I were pregnant at the same time. Our daughters are six weeks apart. The truth is, I have no explanation for this and I don’t know what I believe exactly. What I do know is that hearing a child speak of the spirit world with such confidence, nonchalance even, as if it is a given, gave me a lot more faith than I ever had before and I find that an enormous comfort.
As my daughter enters her fourth, magical year of life, I no longer fear caring for her or being her mother. I’ve learned that parenting is difficult, yes, but that it’s an incredible give and take and an experience that continues to mold me. I’ve learned to let go of so much perfectionism and so many ridiculous expectations and to open my mind to what my daughter can show me.
I can’t wait to see what lessons she still has in store.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise