Children. They’re young and green and unwise to the ways of the world. As parents, our job is to teach them and guide them and make sure they’re doing it all right. We know it all and they know nothing… right?
Is it possible they have a thing or two to teach us? Is it possible that their innocence and zest for life gives them a perspective that we jaded adults may have lost?
I believe yes. I believe that if we open our eyes to it, we will find there is much we can learn from our children:
Make play a priority. Kids. Work. Chores. Adulthood is filled with a myriad of all-consuming responsibilities that make up the bulk of our everyday lives. And through the fog of the monotony, how easy is to forget to have fun? Easy, if you ask me. But that doesn’t make it right. My kids plan their day around time for play. Take a random Saturday in the Fall, for example. They’ll do what needs to be done—be it homework, chores, soccer games or whatever else may be on the agenda. Once done, they head out into the sunshine, rally their friends and play their little hearts out until the sun goes down. Do we do that? Once we’re done with our most pressing obligations—after the workday is over or after that last load of laundry is folded and neatly put away—do we find time to play? Or do we simply set our sights on the next job that needs to get done? For many people, it’s the latter. Play. It’s good for the psyche and the soul.
Learn. When our kids get up and go to school, how are they spending their day? They’re learning, right? Every day, they learn new skills in math, science, reading and social studies, among other things. They have their pens and paper to take notes and they’re given homework to reinforce the lessons of the day. Our kids spend the majority of their young lives learning. Do we do the same? Do we approach each day with a willingness to learn? We should. How awesome is it to acquire new knowledge? Today, for example, I learned that if the batter swings and misses for the third strike but the catcher doesn’t catch the ball, the batter can run to 1st. Who knew? I also learned that kale contains 10% of the RDA of Omega 3 fatty acids. These are two things I didn’t know yesterday. So ask questions. Read. Talk to people. Maybe even pick up a new skill. Find little ways throughout life to learn—the opportunities all around us; They are innumerable. So do what your kids are doing every day: learn.
Make new friends. Extroverted in nature, both of my children make friends wherever they go—be it at school, in sports or even around town. My children rarely find themselves without somebody (or many somebodies) to play with. But making friends doesn’t seem to come as easily to us adults. In fact, it can be downright daunting. It requires us to step out of our comfort zones and put ourselves out there. Wouldn’t it be easier to just stick with the friends we have and call it a day? Wouldn’t it feel safer to stay within the confines of our already-established relationships? Sure. But where’s the fun in that? Each and every one of my friends contributes something significant to my life. Why wouldn’t I want to add to that wealth? Why wouldn’t we all want that? Take a risk. Branch out. Be like your kids and go make a new friend.
Cry when it hurts. Children cry. When they are hurt or sad, that’s what they do: cry. As parents, we seem to be programmed to think this is a bad thing. But is it really? Okay, the seemingly never-ending and often futile exercise of consoling one child or another can be a little frustrating for us as parents. But what our kids are doing is releasing their emotions in a normal, healthy way. We, on the other hand, are conditioned to suck back the tears. We are inclined to keep our emotions to ourselves, as we bottle up our fears, disappointments and pain. How healthy is that? Maybe our kids have it right in letting it all out. Of course I’m not suggesting we walk around whining and crying every time something feels crappy. But maybe if we can open up a little bit more and shed a tear or two once in a while, we can release some of our emotional turbulence and find a place of greater emotional, physical and spiritual well being.
Pour your heart and soul into the present moment. Ever watch your kids play? Ever notice how passionately engaged they are in the activity at hand? When I watch my kids play kickball with their friends, they’re playing kickball. 100%. They’re not thinking about the bath they need to take later or the homework they’ll likely be assigned tomorrow. They’re not beating themselves over the strike out in yesterday’s game or the fight they had with mom over this morning’s breakfast. No. What they are doing is living fully and happily in the present moment, savoring the experience with every fiber of their being. Let’s take a page from their book. Let’s find peace in the knowledge that life happens in the present moment—not in the yesterdays or the tomorrows. “Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.” ― Walt Whitman.
It’s easy for us parents to take on a know-it-all attitude with our kids. But maybe it’s time for us to realize that we do not, in fact, know all there is to know about life. Maybe it’s time for us to look at these little people and uncover some nuggets of wisdom they have to offer.