In a world that seems to make our little ones grow up so quickly and pushes all of us to be high-achievers, my kids are a constant reminder to me to remain childlike regardless of my age.
“Grow up, already!” I sometimes plead inside my head to my children on a long, hard day.
I don’t really want my kids to grow up yet…at least not all the way. But sometimes it seems like it would be nice to have them grow up just a little…just enough to be able to tie their own shoes and get their own drinks of water without leaving puddles on my kitchen floor.
Other times–when I’m not too sleep-deprived or exhausted from refereeing sibling rivalry wars all day–I see my children for more than the messes, the fights, and the constant need of something from me. In those moments, I see them for the wonderful little people that they are, and I realize that maybe I’ve got it backwards. Perhaps rather than wishing for my kids to be a little more like me, I need to be a little more like them.
I can do a lot of things that my kids can’t do. I know how to drive a car, read a book independently, and safely turn on the stove. But, on the other hand, there are a lot of things that–perhaps because of the simplicity of their lives–my kids are much better at doing than I am. I’ve been trying lately to pay attention more to those things and learn from my little ones about the things that matter most in life.
Here are 8 things that my kids do really well that I think we as adults often forget:
For my little guys (4 and 2), life is one big game. They wake up each day free of the shackles of a to do list, an appointment calendar, or deadlines. They just play. And while we adults don’t have the luxury of just playing all the time, maybe we could benefit from at least occasionally setting aside our lists, turning off our responsible brains, and just letting loose with our kids. Somewhere along the line, most of us develop the habit of thinking that “play” is for children. Mark Twain said, “Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” So maybe we need to make a little more time in our lives for the things that we choose, whatever our own version of play is, rather than always busying ourselves with what we feel duty-bound to accomplish.
2. Enjoy simple pleasures
It takes so little to impress a small child. A sticker, a gum drop, a rollie-pollie crawling on the sidewalk. They don’t need or want much. They may ask for a toy at the store, but my boys are truly as happy playing outside with sticks and dirt as with a flashy new gadget. They notice the little things, and they get so excited about all the little wonders of the world. As we grow older, we often set our sights higher, looking for bigger fancier things, and we take many of the simple beauties of the world for granted. Or, we just get too busy to notice those rollie pollies, or the butterflies flitting about in the field of weeds. One of my favorite things about being a mom is watching my boys discover the magic of the world for the first time…they remind me that there is so much magic to be seen and enjoyed.
3. Forgive and forget quickly
I am far from a perfect mother, and yet most nights before going to be, my four-year-old tells me, “Mom, you’re the best mom in the world.” How grateful I am for his ability to forgive me for all the times I lose my patience, speak too sharply, fail to give him the attention he craves, and all the other faults that have become so apparent to me in motherhood. He doesn’t see me as a grumpy failure at the end of the day (regardless of how I sometimes feel like one). He sees the mom who hugs him, sings him silly songs, and does jammie races with him. He not only forgives my weaknesses; he truly forgets them in favor of the good memories. I am not one to hold big grudges in life, but I certainly could learn a lesson from my boys on truly letting go of and forgetting the wrongdoings of others.
4. Tell it like it is
I love the honesty of small children. Whether it’s telling me what they really think of dinner, or telling the store cashier that his red (like, fire engine red) hair is really cool, my kids are honest. What I love about this is that although it can be awkward at times, I know that if my kids give me a compliment, they mean it. My son tells me when he doesn’t like dinner, but he also tells me when it’s “really, really good, Mom!” As we get older, we worry so much more about hurting people’s feelings and so sometimes we’re not completely honest, or we become distrustful of a world where we’ve been burned and so we just don’t believe what we hear. It’s refreshing to know that you can take someone’s words at face value, even if that person is four years old.
5. Love to move
My kids have boundless energy! I often joke with others about how it would be nice if we could siphon off a bit of it to balance their energy levels with mine. All day long, my boys want to have races, play soccer, do obstacle courses, wrestle, play hide and seek, have dance parties, and more (in fact, we did most of those things today). I feel like if I were to let them choose all our activities, we would hardly ever sit down. And while that’s exhausting, I love that they are so active. They don’t have to set aside time to exercise; they just move all. day. long. They are a good reminder to me to get off the couch and run around, even if I would rather snuggle up and read a book quietly. I feel better when I’ve gotten out and given my muscles a chance to stretch and work for a little while.
6. Don’t care what other people think
I don’t know when the transition happens, but sometime between toddlerhood and puberty, most people start to care a lot about what other people think. I’m guilty of being a people-pleaser and a worrier. I try to be mindful of being genuine, regardless of what other people may think of me, but it’s SO hard for me to let go of imagining other people’s perceptions of me. But for my kids, it’s so natural. They are who they are, and they’re proud of it. There’s no pretense, no guile, no charade. They’re not afraid to try new things because someone might laugh. They’re proud to show off their scribbles, or crooked somersaults, or popsiscle stick crafts. They certainly don’t hide their candle under a bushel…they hold their lights as high as they can and yell at the top of their lungs to show the world who they are. And I love them for it.
7. Live in the moment
My kids don’t have a strong understanding of time yet, so all they can do is live for today. That’s all they can grasp. I, on the other hand, have a constant stream of thoughts taking me away from whatever I’m doing at a given moment. Even when I’m building towers with my boys, I often find myself thinking about what we’re going to have for dinner, who I need to email, what blog post I’m going to write next, and any number of other tasks that need to happen in the future. It’s hard for me, with my long list of things to do, to tune out everything except what I’m currently doing. However, that has been one of my biggest goals in the past year: to be present wherever I am. Mind, body, and soul. It’s a work in progress, but watching the way that my boys naturally immerse themselves in whatever they’re doing at a given moment is a constant reminder to me to keep trying.
8. Believe that the world is a good place
Sometimes we adults get a little cynical and jaded as we learn about the hard truths of the world. Perhaps we could learn a little from our children about believing that the world is a good place. Isn’t it, after all? Sure, there is real, palpable evil in the world, but there is also SO much good. If even Anne Frank could claim the belief that, “despite everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart,” can’t we also hang onto that hope? Let’s–like our little children–remember the good, be a part of the good, and believe that good will triumph over evil in the end.
I’m so grateful that my children remind me to slow down, play, forgive, and love life. As much as I feel a responsibility to teach them each day, I also feel like I’m their student. Their example helps me remember what matters most in life. As they grow up, I hope they will hold on to these wonderful childlike qualities.
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