When my firstborn was just a baby, I’d hold him in my arms and think about all the wonderful things I wanted to teach him. I wanted to teach him important things like manners and values, as well as practical things like how to tie his shoes and how to save his money.
As a parent, it’s a privilege to teach your children so many different things, but what has surprised me is how much they have taught me. Perhaps, it’s not so much that they’ve taught me new things, but, rather, that they’ve helped me relearn so many old lessons by seeing things through their youthful eyes.
9 Things I’ve learned from My Children:
1. Live in the moment.
My toddler and preschooler have absolutely no concept of time. They take each day as it comes and see each day as a new adventure, even the days when we don’t leave the house. My four-year-old is a planner, and every day he asks, “What’s the plan for today?” As I list our plans, his eyes light up with excitement. What seems menial to me holds potential for him, and it’s taught me to see each day with new eyes, live in the moment, and approach new days with excitement.
2. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Before my two-year-old was born, I bought him the cutest, softest, stuffed fox. He slept with it for about a year, but he’s since decided it’s not his favorite. Instead, he picked a worn out old lady bug out of our toy bin and decided it was his new favorite. The other night as I was rocking him I said, “Why do you like this tattered old lady bug?” He doesn’t know a lot of words, but in that moment he knew what I meant and he simply replied, “friend.” I smiled to myself, realizing how silly it was of me to judge his “friend” on outward appearances. After all, I should know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
3. Don’t mess with family.
One time my four-year-old randomly blurted out, “If anyone messes with my brother, I will destroy them.” My husband responded, “I wouldn’t take it that far. Maybe just tell them to be nice.” My little one cocked his head to the side, raised his eyebrows, and asked, “And then destroy them?” As we tried to hold back laughter and explain kinder tactics, I realized his mentality wasn’t too much different than my own. No one messes with my family and gets away with it. That’s a good rule.
4. Sometimes we just want someone to acknowledge our pain.
I probably put more Band-Aids on invisible cuts and scrapes than I do on real ones. My kids seem to think that Band-Aids will take away all their pain. Honestly, I think they just want me to acknowledge their pain even if there is nothing I can do about it, which really isn’t too different from what we want as adults. Sometimes it’s just nice to have someone acknowledge that you’re hurting – sort of like putting an emotional Band-Aid on someone’s wounds. It may not actually help the pain, but it always helps to know that someone cares.
5. Making new friends takes boldness.
My four-year-old is better at making new friends than I am. He’ll go to the park and find a kid his age, introduce himself, and follow it up with, “Do you want to be my friend?” Most of the time the kid says, “yes,” and they run off and play. Meanwhile, I’m sitting on the park bench avoiding eye contact with the parent next to me because I’d rather avoid awkward small talk. The thing is, though, parenthood can be lonely, and it’s harder than ever to make new friends, especially when your schedule mainly revolves around your kids. Why wouldn’t I put myself out there like my son does and try to make a new friend? My son is teaching me to be bold, and I am slowly learning how to be like him in this area.
6. Happiness is found in the simplest of things.
My kids love coloring inside cardboard boxes, swinging on the swing in the backyard, and throwing rocks in the creek. The littlest things seem to bring them great joy. They don’t need fancy toys or elaborate birthday parties to be happy, they just need space to be kids and play with dirt and rocks. It’s a reminder to me to be content with what I have and embrace the simplicity of life.
7. Courage isn’t the lack of fear, it’s choosing to face your fears even though you’re scared.
I was pretty sure I’d wasted our money on swim lessons after the third day of watching my four-year-old cling to his swim teacher, refusing to get more than a foot away from her in the water. I really didn’t blame him. Learning to swim for the first time is pretty terrifying. But somewhere along the way something clicked, and he began facing his fears, letting go of his teacher, and swimming on his own. I know he was still scared, but he chose to face his fears anyway, showing true courage, and reminding me to do the same.
8. Patience is a virtue.
To be honest, my house feels like a circus sometimes, and I’m not too sure who’s running it. There are days when my toddler’s pulling the milk off the counter and my preschooler’s chasing the cat one minute and jumping off the furniture the next. My kids have taught me to breathe deeply, pray harder, and count to ten. They apparently think I really need to grow in the area of patience, so they give me plenty of opportunities to practice it.
9. Unconditional love is a beautiful thing.
I’ve always wanted to teach my kids that I love them unconditionally, but I didn’t expect for them to do the same for me. I feel it in the way they hug me sometimes, or the unexpected kiss or cuddle. My oldest son will sometimes stop what he’s doing, look me in the eye, and say, “I love you, Mom.” And, all the weight of motherhood sinks away in that moment. I can stop worrying whether I’m doing this motherhood thing right or wrong, and simply know that my kids love me unconditionally. And, that is a beautiful, remarkable thing – and something I hope that they keep teaching me for many years to come.
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