As parents, it’s natural for us to take on the teacher role, to advise, inform and model so that our children might learn from our efforts. I know that I am constantly on the alert for teachable moments, those profound instants when I get down on my knees to come face to face with my daughter and speak softly but earnestly about the importance of this or that, while looking deeply into her eyes.
But having been a mother for almost 10 years now, I have realized that the things you can learn from your (or any) child are sometimes far more profound and life-changing than just learning how to tie your shoelaces or to eat with your mouth closed.
So here’s a list of 5 things that we can learn from almost any child.
1. Look beyond the traditional labels
When my girls would prattle on about their playground adventures or classroom feats, and mentioned this kid or that, I would want to know more. So, in addition to asking questions about what games they played, who they played them with and what their favourite game was, I would ask questions like “so which country did Su-Ying come from?” or “is Sonia South-Asian like us?”.
My sweet, lovely, amazing daughters would look at me and one, if not both, would say “does it matter Ammi?”
No, it does not matter. No matter that I ask these questions out of curiosity, it really does not matter. My girls do not see their friends as white, black, yellow or brown. Nor do they see them as Korean, Indian, English or Iranian. They see them the way anyone should be seen. As people.
I no longer ask these questions because my daughters have taught me that they are of no significance. But boy, am I itching to figure out if their little friend Coco is French!
2. Imagine, always Imagine
When my girls were little, whenever they were given a toy which came in a box, they would invariably end up playing with the box and not the toy. Off course, they would ‘ooh and aah’ over their shiny new toy, they’d play with it for all of 10 minutes. Then they’d discover the colourful cardboard box sitting just there, and it would become their next fort, house, cradle, car, armour or whatever object suited the current game they were playing.
I remember a favourite one was momma and baby where they took turns to be the mom and the baby. Another one was bad guy, good guy. Or prince and princess. Or fairy queen and band of fairies. They had lots of favourites!
As they’ve grown this has not changed much. The one or two toys or playthings that have stuck are more ridable ones, like the Fliker scooters that they got from ‘Santa’ 2 Christmases ago. Though, to them, the Flikers are their horses, Rainbow and Bubblegum, who live in the basement!
My son, probably because he doesn’t have a twin or a sibling close to his age to play with, does play with his toys but in his own little world where (I assume) he’s the dump truck driver, pilot or driver of whatever vehicle has taken his fancy.
It always fascinates me how immersed kids get in their imagination and the ideas they come up with are inspiring.
Einstein is credited for having stated “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
Couldn’t agree more.
3. Don’t give up, no matter what
Anyone who’s watched a baby learning how to walk will know that they keep at it until they learn to do it. Having watched all 3 of my kids go through various learning curves from learning to sit to learning to crawl and then walk, it fascinates me how singular minded young children are and how much they believe in themselves. And it makes me sad that somewhere along the way, most of us lose that confidence and belief.
My daughter Héli still has that quality to a great extent and I love watching her keep at something until she has taught herself whatever she set out to learn in the first place. It`s how she learnt how to ride a bike, skip a rope, do a perfect cartwheel and now, play the piano.
Watching her and her siblings has taught me that failure is not something to take personally. Failing is not a reflection of you as a person. It just means you`re not there yet.
4. Have the courage to ask
When it comes to getting what they want, I feel as if my kids have special abilities in that area! Conversations like the following are very common in our house:
Kid: Can I please have a piece of chocolate Ammi?
Me: No, not now. You can have a piece after lunch.
Kid: But last Saturday you promised I could have a piece because ……… (name of one of the other two) had a piece and I never did. So can I have that piece now?
Me (starting to lose patience): I don’t remember me saying you could have anything last Saturday (scratches head wondering if did or not)
Kid: But you promised!!
Me (really losing it): NO!!!!!
Kid (with sad puppy dog face): PLEEEEAAAAASE????
Me (resigning to the fact that have lost this battle): ALRIGHT!!! But NO Chocolate after lunch!!
Kid: Awwwww…what about a little piece?
As adults we are frequently afraid to ask for what we want. We just assume that we won’t get it and so, don’t ask for it in the first place. And so, we could be missing fantastic opportunities just because we are afraid to ask.
Because how can you win the lottery, if you haven’t ever bought a ticket?
5. Be Brave
Most kids are fearless and most adults are not.
Having watched the way my kids play and seeing them do things that I should be able to do, but probably would be too scared to try, I have realized that kids are inherently fearless to a great extent.
Now bravery is not necessarily the absence of fear but rather experiencing the fear and still taking action anyway.
It’s a scary thing but it is fear that keeps so many of us trapped in dead-end jobs we don’t like or relationships that don’t work.
I remember how scared I was to start my business. ‘What-ifs’ kept swirling in my brain which prevented me from taking the leap for quite some time. But eventually, the loudest ‘what-if’ in my head became the one that said ‘what if you regret never taking action?’
Which is what I did.
I still experience fear, discouragement and disbelief in myself on a daily basis. But I remind myself that beyond that fear barrier, good things lie in wait.
What have you learnt from watching your own kids or someone else's kids? Did it take you by surprise? Leave a comment below :)