One of the unexpected benefits of parenting is that while we do our best to teach our children well, they teach us right back.
Of course, they’re not trying to teach us. Through their joys and sorrows, their growth and development, and the very miracle of their existence, they unwittingly bestow upon us the lessons that, perhaps, we most need to learn.
Here are some examples of lessons that our children teach us.
Just as we were starting to make our way through adulthood and we’re thinking pretty highly of ourselves, that we’ve got this whole thing all figured out, along comes this little person to remind us how much more we have to learn.
Perhaps we’ve got impressive resumes or have traveled widely, or have achieved some goals, but now we’re faced with diapers and interpreting what the crying is trying to tell us and trying to meet the needs of this amazingly fragile life, and we are brought right back down to earth—and thank goodness for that.
As we grow up, life becomes more serious. Concerned with personal goals, careers, responsibilities, and challenges, we can get bogged down, losing sight of the simple joys in life.
Children aren’t bogged down with such concerns. Their lovely spirits move through the world, noticing the adorable puppy walking by, the silly sound they heard in the distance, the funny face their Daddy made, or the amazing way clay feels in their hands.
A child can experience countless joys each and every day. It is a delight to witness. They remind us to not take life too seriously and to let go of things that inhibit us from noticing the simple joys in life.
Children’s ability to give their full attention to the present moment is enviable. Whether they’re having a tea party with their stuffed animals or giggling down the slide at the playground, that’s all they’re focused on.
Their minds aren’t thinking about the next three things they have to do, the grocery list, the phone call they need to make, the project they need to get back to. They are there, fully, at the moment.
We can learn to refocus our attention on the present moment more often. Childhood is temporary, and we don’t want to be mentally elsewhere and miss it entirely. Our children implore us in so many ways to be present.
Until we became parents, we didn’t realize how deeply we could care for another being. Upon our first child’s birth, our lives are changed forever, now dedicated to being the best parents we can be. From that moment on, every decision is looked at through the lens of our compassion for our children. The selfishness that was building as we moved through adulthood begins to dissolve. With any luck, we can successfully harness this newfound level of compassion and extend it beyond our family to others.
Children must play. It is their most important work and something they are naturally compelled to do. It’s amazing to watch very little ones naturally play with whatever objects or environment they are provided. It is through play that they learn many of the lessons they’ll need in life and receive the emotional connections that allow them to thrive.
Many of us, at some point, stopped playing. Wonderfully, our children remind us to play. Playing with our children is a gift to them and ourselves.
Do you think you’re a creative person? Most adults say no to this question. But most kids say yes.
Our children remind us of our innate creativity and give us a license to, once again, roll up our sleeves and create alongside them. Our inhibitions become suddenly insignificant, and we rekindle our creative selves.
Our Own Faults
Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It won’t always be joyous play and delightful wonder. Sometimes, it’s challenging and other times, it’s crushingly difficult.
Children will challenge their parents. They’ll act out, misbehave, carry on, and go against our wishes in an astounding number of ways.
Knowing how to handle each situation and teach them the values we hope to instill is hard. Parents will often feel lost, and unsure of what to do.
One helpful tool is recognizing that our children provide a mirror to ourselves. While it’s not easy to recognize, perhaps the most beneficial gift our children provide us is a reflection of our faults.
When your children behave in a way you don’t like, look within yourself and see if you, too, behave in that way sometimes. When your child exhibits a character trait you find unsatisfactory, look within yourself to see if he or she is reflecting a trait you possess as well.
It’s not the easiest part of parenting, but such self-knowledge is invaluable, and you may find that the problem in your child dissolves upon your recognizing it in yourself.
Perhaps the best gift our children give us is the ability, once again, to look upon the world in wonder. Seeing the world through the eyes of a child is one of life’s greatest joys. It’s the thing that makes all of the challenges and sacrifices inherent in parenting seem a small price to pay for such a gift.
Every task, from the mundane to the epic, becomes a monumental voyage of discovery. You may have walked down your street a million times, but suddenly with your young child in tow, it’s a glorious adventure full of new sights, sounds, and delights that make your whole day.
Childhood is beautiful, and the gift of experiencing each stage of it with those you love is a blessing beyond measure.