One of the most powerful memories I have of my boys is from about 10 years ago. My oldest was about 8 and my youngest was about 3. It was a summer day and I took them up to one of the local parks to play. When we got there, there were already children running and playing on the playground. What happened next was eye opening and was a great lesson that is worth sharing.
As my sons walked up to the playscape, three children varying in age (probably from 9-4 years old) walked up to them and each said, “Hi, I’m Mason.” “Hi, I’m Emily.” “Hi, I’m Tiffany, we’re playing tag. Come on and play with us!’ Without thinking twice, they all went off and played happily together. What struck me was that one of the children was African American, one was of Asian decent, and the other was Arabic, and then my two boys. I never heard an argument or disagreement.
As a radio DJ, I became an “observer of life” and shared stories on the air every day. I don’t recall the exact presentation of this story, but the basic gist of it went something like this: here were 5 children, all from various ethnic backgrounds, from different races, different cultures, and different genders – and they never saw any of that. They swapped names and said “Let’s play!” I remember the last line of my talk on this was “If the adults of the world acted more like these children, the world would be a lot more peaceful.”
As adults, we often talk of going back to our childhood. We reminisce about the past and talk of wanting to go back. Over time, as we grew up, we became more and more influenced by the world and the thoughts of the world. As parents it becomes our job to teach our children the things that they will need in life. Children, however, tend to know more than we forget. We often forget the things that THEY are teaching us.
These are my observations. I don’t claim to be listing all of the things that our children teach us, but here are some of them:
Based on the story I started this blog with, the first thing that children can teach us is “See everybody as special.” Everyone is unique. Everyone can potentially be a friend. They don’t see race, gender, orientation, culture, or color. They see a friend. They see some one to play with. We are often so caught up in the things like race, gender, and background that we never truly ever see the “person” and some allow those things to be a barrier they can never get past. It is sad to think of the friendships that never occur because of this.
Every day is a new day. It’s a fresh start. They don’t look back, they don’t carry around things from day to day. Each day is a new day full of opportunities and a blank slate. They are not clock watching – their day is like and eternity – new possibilities are everywhere! They live for today without focusing on the past or future. Imagine how much more of life you would enjoy if we started each day with this attitude.
Find happiness in the simple things. Get excited. Going back to the story I opened with, I remember how much joy a simple visit to the park brought to my sons. They would get so excited when they knew we were going! Think about a doctor visit with your child. After they get a shot or a check up, they get a sticker! It’s a sticker, something so small and worthless, but the joy that it brings to a child. Sometimes, as adults, we forget to find happiness in the small things.
Dream Big. I always loved going to parent teacher conferences and seeing the bulletin board filled with “What I Want To Be When I Grow Up” essays. Doctors, Astronauts, Inventors and more! Dream Big, kids! And don’t EVER let someone stop you from making that dream a reality! For that matter, don’t let anyone stop you from making your dreams as an adult come true either!
Give with an open heart. I remember this one time we were at the park, a little boy came up to me and was holding an ice cream cone that was melting. It looked like it had been dropped on the ground numerous times. “Wanna try my ice cream?” It took all I could muster to say, “No thank you.” In a world full of selfishness and greed, Giving freely is a lesson most adults have long since lost.
Ask Questions – Be Curious. As a parent, I will be the first to admit that after the 5th or 6th time of hearing, “Why?” you want to snap! Keep in mind, however, your child is a sponge, and he or she is doing a lot of learning each day. The more that ask, the more they know! I am guilty of not asking enough questions. Be curious!
It’s OK to ask for help. How else are you gonna figure something out?! I am almost 50 and I still find myself asking things of coworkers. There is nothing wrong with asking for help.
It’s OK to cry when you are upset or hurt. This is so important! I guess this one should really read “It’s OK to show emotions.” I know that society wants to make a man or a woman who cries into something they are not. Society makes us want to hold in our emotions and there are plenty scientific studies to show that is not a healthy thing!
Forgive and Forget. Children are so very quick to forgive and then it is forgotten. How many grudges to we hold onto in our lifetime? How many of those last for years? Do not underestimate the power of forgiveness. Forgiving allows you to let go of stress.
Your imagination is limitless and a portal to all kinds of adventures – use more of it. Before the dawn of tablets and cell phones, we went out and made up our own scenarios. We played cops and robbers, flew rockets to Mars, fought aliens, and created our own stories. With the imagination, we can be anything, go anywhere, etc… Imagination brought us the airplane, the electric light, and so much more! Those were things brought about by an adult’s imagination!
Be active. Play! Go outside! Oh to have their energy again!! Activity is important! Exercise can be more than going to the gym. Get out and be active. I am guilty of not doing this enough!
Be fearless. Face your fears. A child thinks nothing of running and jumping face first onto a slip and slide. As parents, we are often watching to make sure those daredevil instincts and trying to save them from being hurt. There is something to be said about living life and not being afraid to take chances!
Laugh more – Laugh often. I don’t know about you, but I find the laughter of a child to be contagious. I firmly believe that laughter in general can be contagious and maybe, if we laughed more, life wouldn’t be so stressful. Laughing can lead to you being happy – and isn’t that what you want?
Love more – Love unconditionally. “I love you dad” are still some of the most amazing and moving words. Even when I have had to discipline my children, they still love me. The same holds true for me, even though they have done something that was disrespectful or hurtful, I still love them. Love – spread it around!
Be honest. While my kids can whip out a good lie, when they do, it if often because they know there are gonna get in trouble. Many kids, especially the toddlers, have no filter. Sometimes this is a good thing, and sometimes, it can be embarrassing. Being honest, however, still remains one of the great virtues of respected adults.
Believe. A child’s belief in something can be an amazing thing. What an amazing life lesson for us adults to “believe”. Children believe that everything is possible. For us, sometimes the hardest thing is believing in ourselves. Believe!!!
Do what you love. Watch a child and you will very rarely see him or her doing something that they dislike. There is a wonderful lesson here for adults – doing what you love can bring about much peace and happiness.
Many things can be fixed with a nap or a hug. When I would hurt my self, my mom always kissed it and made it better – it was like magic! I would be lying to you if I said that I don’t feel better about something after I hug my wife! And let’s face it, a nap is always a good thing, too!
Never stop learning. All day, every day, a child is learning something new. Each day a child will ask questions and will add to the knowledge they already know. This is a great lesson for us. There is SO much stuff to study and learn. There are SO many things that you haven’t experienced. Learn stuff!! Compile a list of things you have wondered about, and search for a book or website about it. We are always learning, and the more we learn, the more interesting a person we become.
I hope that some of these lessons from little ones can be applied to you and your life. I look forward to your additions to this list.