The following post is the second in a series based on Dr. Wayne Dyer’s quote, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
Given the privilege of being a stay-at-home mom for 11 years followed by a continuing career in elementary education, I’ve spent plenty of time with children over the years. Children, without intending to, remind us of the many things we forget as adulthood forces us to conform to social expectations and responsibilities. When I learned to really listen and observe children carefully, I realized that their ways actually aligned closely to what adults come to, or should I say return to, believe are important keys to life. Here are a few things (not all) I have learned from both my own children and my students:
See the best in others Generally speaking, children tend to assume the best in others until shown something different. In fact, as I type these very words in a coffee shop, a little boy about the age of 2 can’t seem to stop smiling at me. It appears that children innately gravitate toward the inner goodness and tenderness that lies deep within each of us. As adults, we learn to be more cautious, guarded, or “sensible” but at the same time, we don’t want to extinguish that natural need for humans to connect with each other. Children highlight parts of others that adults often miss.
I recall a time my son was in elementary school when he would come home talking about this “really cool” friend that drew super heroes. Then one day when I picked him up from school, he was so excited for the opportunity to introduce me to this budding cartoonist. “Come on, Mom. He’s over here!” We rushed through a crowd of students and parents until we got to a boy sitting against the wall while rocking back and forth. “Nathan! Nathan! This is my mom! Nathan! …Okay, I’ll see you later.” It appeared to me that Nathan showed signs of being on the spectrum of autism. As we walked away, my son said, “I know he didn’t say anything. He’s just kinda shy.” I was touched by his ability to see through to Nathan’s inner being, a creative spirit. In my son’s young mind, he only saw that Nathan is a cool artist.
Be present If you’ve even played with a child or engaged in a conversation with one at his/her level of understanding, you’ll notice that their presence is unmistakable. The moment becomes all about the game, imaginary world, or story that’s being shared. It’s the appeal to attention, acceptance, and connection that magnifies the presence. Somehow, spending time with children brings to mind the relevance of now. Too often, adults fall into the trap of multitasking and productivity. Children seem to recognize presence as a way to show others that they are seen and heard. Being seen and heard gives us a sense of belonging.
Embrace forgiveness Plenty of children also demonstrate presence by maintaining a short memory for disagreements and disappointments. Many times I have witnessed children be furious at a friend over a trivial matter then later run off together as if nothing happened between them. The act of holding a grudge seems to be learned and, quite frankly unnatural. Unfortunately, adults too frequently struggle with forgiveness. We don’t let go of our hurts easily if we have forgotten what it means to accept mistakes by both others and ourselves. As you might guess, some things are easier to forgive than others. However, liberation lies on the otherside of forgiveness so it’s worth the effort.
Wonder Children usually believe grown ups know everything. They ask lots of questions about what they experience in the world. Adults almost always have some kind of answer. However, many adults are hesitant to say, “I don’t know,” and will give the best explanation they can with the information they have at the moment regardless of any limitations.
According to Socrates, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Given this idea, who is demonstrating wisdom here? Is it the inquisitive child or the adult armed with knowledge and experience? Children remind us to be curious. Find awe around our space. Be humble.
Savor anticipation Are we there yet? Are we there yet?! How about now?!! Children can hardly contain their excitement when looking forward to new adventure. The interesting thing is that they sometimes show the same excitement for not so new things as well. Picture a child anticipating Disneyland. Now picture that same child anticipating the promise of their favorite ice cream. It’s hard to tell the difference. Children understand savoring and expressing the excitement of what’s yet to come. I make effort to anticipate that goodness will be presented to me each day. Honestly, I’m better on some days than others but it never fails that sincerely looking forward to something always brings a smile on my face.
These certainly don’t represent all the things I’ve learned from my children. There have been oh so many lessons. Moreover, the ways in which these lessons appear continue to evolve as my own children are now young adults. Overall, these ideas taught me that my ego is not really all that important at all. Releasing self-centered beliefs is one of the first lessons in becoming a parent but it’s also a process that consistently guides us to search for deeper understanding of our authentic self. It seems to me that children are much more than younger versions of ourselves. Perhaps they are a vehicle to forgotten truths about who we are. Therefore, who are my teachers and my guides? They are the very Beings that I believed I was intended to teach and to guide.
“In all kinds of ways, if we are willing, our children take us into places in our heart we didn’t know existed.” – Dr. Shefali Tsabary, author of The Conscious Parent