I used to think that the most knowledge I would ever gain about life was in college.
Once I graduated, I realized that college prepared me for absolutely nothing and it was actually the day to day living of life and constantly screwing up that was teaching me the most.
Now I realize that it’s my kids that have taught me everything that’s truly important about life. It’s been through watching them, listening to them and allowing them to just be who they are that I’m discovering some of life’s most important lessons.
Who knew that a six year old and two-and-a-half year old were that wise? These are some of their innocent teachings.
Take notes—they’re wise little creatures:
1) Sit down and relax. I think that all of us have a to-do list so long, we can agree that we’ll never get through it. But hell, that’ll never stop us from trying.
We rush through the door at night, scramble to make dinner, give baths, help with homework, pack lunches, fire off work emails, clean the messes…that we don’t actually sit down and just be with them.
My kids are constantly patting the chair at the dining room table or place next to them on the couch with their little hands and saying, “Sit mommy.” And no matter how much I want to tell them I can’t…that I have to clean up, make a grocery list, get another work email out before the next day, I follow their orders and sit.
And for just a brief period of time, I actually fall into them and relax. Because I realize that nobody makes it up to Heaven with a gold medal hanging around their neck that says, “I got everything done before I croaked.” But boy will my kids remember those snuggle fests and warm lingering hugs once I’m gone.
2) Dance more and with no shame. Both my children love to dance. They take after their mommy…what can I say? They will dance anywhere, especially my two year old. It can be in the middle of breakfast or on the table during dinner or sometimes in the middle of Target. But you can pretty much put money on it that if there’s music on in the background, one of them is going to stick out their butt, scream “Shake your booty” at the top of their lungs and show off their best moves.
Why save our best moves for the dance floor? I think we all need to dance more. Move our bodies, make fools of ourselves…dance without shame or embarrassment or caring how we look. It’s an expression of ourselves, relieves stress and is probably one of the most fun ways to connect with someone…even a perfect stranger.
3) Break the rules sometimes. My parents were pretty structured and strict when I was growing up. And although I believe it was incredibly helpful to us as kids and even more as adults, I often longed for them to let us break the rules sometimes.
I’m not suggesting riding in the car without a seatbelt or letting them play with the lighter. I’m talking about allowing them to take a day off of school to go to Disneyland or eating cake before dinner.
Because seriously, who doesn’t love doing this as an adult? Calling in sick from work to take a “me” day, drinking a bottle of wine and eating a box of chocolate for dinner (okay, maybe this is just me). And the world doesn’t actually end when we do this. Maybe breaking the rules sometimes isn’t the worst thing in the world.
4) Call attention to yourself when you’re proud of something you’ve done. My kids must say, “Mommy..watch me!” 10 times a day. Then they show off something they’ve mastered that they’re really proud of, their faces lit up with joy and excitement. But nothing beats having me validate them and express my own pride and excitement in what they’re doing or what they’ve accomplished.
So I’ve learned to share more when I’m doing something myself that I’m proud of. I used to be incredibly self-conscious and afraid of coming off like I was looking for attention or validation by sharing my successes. But my kids have taught me that sometimes saying “Look at me!” is a way to share with the people we love something awesome we’re doing, knowing they’ll also be happy and proud of us.
5) Everyone wants to be seen. I know this about myself and I know this about other people, but nobody has hammered it home the way my children have for me. They are both unique and special, with their own personalities, needs and perceptions of the world. One needs a lot of physical touch and affection while the other needs to express himself, be heard and get lots of special one on one time.
I used to butt heads with my oldest because of his sensitive nature, persistence in trying to get what he wants and need for constant validation until I realized I’m just like him! I think all of us want so desperately to be seen for who we are and accepted. My kids desire for the same has made me much more compassionate and accepting towards other people who are different than me.
6) Be present for every moment. Until I had my children, I was mentally checked out half the time. I thought being an expert multi-tasker made me superior to other people when in reality it just made me never fully present for the people in my life.
Children force us to stay present in the moment. Their glees of delight and jubilant screams of “Watch me!” force us to focus on some of the most cherished and unforgettable moments of their life. Whether it’s their first steps, the expressions on their faces when they see something they love, watching the silly things they do like pretending they’re jumping out of a plane when in reality they’re jumping off the bed in a batman cape…we’re missing out when we’re not fully present.
And I’m not willing to miss out on any of those other moments in my life by not being fully there for each moment.
7) Don’t take everything so seriously. Do you remember how as a child you could brush off almost anything? Some kid pushed you down on the street and after being pissed for say…five minutes, you were off playing with the same kid an hour later?
Sometimes I’ll scold one of my kids for doing something stupid like throwing their clothes on the floor instead putting them in the hamper and I can see my oldest kinda roll his eyes like, “Seriously mom… you’re getting your panties in a wad over my ninja turtle bottoms being on the floor?”
I’m constantly reminded how lucky I am that I have these two perfect, vibrantly healthy kids to pick up after when some parents are dealing with incredibly sick children in the hospital or some other tragic loss. There are some things we have to take seriously—but most of it, not so much.
8) Express what you’re feeling. Children have no filter. They don’t hesitate to tell you when they’re angry. They shed instant tears when they’re sad or frustrated. They throw their arms around you when they’re feeling love.
They tell you when they feel ignored.
Sadly, we don’t do this enough as adults. We filter everything. Anger. We suppress it. Sadness. We find ways to not feel it. Love.
We often hold ourselves back from expressing it out of fear that the other person may not feel the same way.
My children have taught be to be more open with my feelings. To say what’s on my mind. To allow myself to be more vulnerable. And really this is how my deeper, more intimate relationships have formed.
9) Express affection as much as possible. I think we believe on some level that it’s not appropriate to hug or kiss or express our affection for people as much as we’d like. The truth is, most people wouldn’t turn down a hug or other small gestures of affection for anything in the world.
My kids can’t get enough snuggles or affection. And I remember being the very same way as a child. We need physical touch. Even as adults, our need to feel nurtured and connected with others is equal to if not more than kids.
Don’t ever underestimate the importance of physical touch.
10) Be courageous. Kids are not limited by their fears, their past, or their beliefs that “they can’t.” They only believe that they can and they will!
They aren’t scared of looking silly or being judged. They’ve never failed at anything before so nothing stops them from trying.
The greatest lesson I’ve learned from the both of them is to be courageous in my everyday life, to take chances and risks, to not fear what other people think of me or looking like a fool.
It’s only through demonstrating own courage that my children will grow up to not lose theirs.
And they can go out into the world knowing that there is nothing they can’t do or become if they move forward with all the lessons they taught me when they were growing up.
Author: Dina Strada
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: “Adventurers,” Ian D. Keating/Flickr