SPEND A few hours with children, and you’ll learn how to be a Grown Up
For all the training, education and professional development that we adults engage in, sometimes we forget the most essential lessons. I don’t have the privilege often enough of being in the company of kids. When I am, I am reminded of how difficult I make life for myself. Here is what I learned from hanging out with some spunky pre-schoolers.
1. Stop not being in the moment.
I took a walk around the block with one of our little sweethearts. Moment by moment, his eyes and mind would capture interesting bumps in the sidewalk, a bumble bee hanging out with the begonias, a mysterious lock thrown into the bushes, and a hidden brick pathway. His delight and joy forced me to stop my own mind from racing into the future, worrying about problems that couldn’t be solved by thinking, creating mental to-do lists, manufacturing anxiety. This is what I learned: I spend too much time in unproductive worry. By letting go of that, I make room for contentment –which promotes a feeling of well being, which in turn is productive. A deeply philosophical education as taught by a 3 year old. So, take a moment, breathe in. What do you notice right here, right now?
2. Everyone just wants to be heard and understood.
Our little guy would get very sad and cry when his Dad would leave for work in the morning. Because he didn’t have the language for his feelings, emotion came out through tears. His tears said what he had no words for — my world is unpredictable and I’m having trouble dealing with it. I have those moments too, do you? When is the last time you encountered a cranky co-worker, cashier, or family member or random person in traffic and wondered, “What is up with her today!” or “Gosh he is such a jerk!” If you really stop to think about it, you have no idea what led to that outburst. We’re all human, we’ve all gone through difficult break ups, job loss, sickness — the world is an unpredictable, scary place. Bottom line: Learning the language to communicate feelings is an important skill. Acknowledging those emotions makes us feel better, and helps us handle anything that comes our way. We’re all connected, every human deserving of compassion.
3. Watch out for dog poop!
Little kids have dog poop radar. Unfortunately, I forget to look out. I was jogging along in the grass while our little beauty rode her bike. By the time we got back to the house and kicked our shoes off, there was a powerful doggie odor coming from me, and the kids were the first to notice. I hadn’t been paying attention to where I was going and I’d walked right into it! I started to get irritated with the irresponsible pet owners in the neighborhood. But the kids started laughing, then showed me where the hose was, and laughed some more. Pretty soon I saw the joke too.
My takeaway: Walking down the path of life, you’re going to step in a lot of doo doo. But don’t fret, just clean it up, and laugh it off.
4. Sometimes you need to let go of ‘THE PLAN’.
I’m a good one for coming up with ‘projects’, then getting frustrated when they don’t go according to prescription. Being with children is the best antidote to rigid thinking. Just try to plan out exactly how things should go with young ones. We were making a birthday cake in the kitchen, each kid had a job. One would pour the milk in. One would wash the strawberries. I knew just how to do it. But pretty soon, the kids were getting ‘creative’ and next were eating strawberries behind my back. My first thought was ‘This cake is never going to get made!’ that thought was quickly followed by “We are having fun in the kitchen, making memories”.
I’ve had the same experience at large events with adults. I create an agenda, I know how everything should go, what experience everyone should have. And then, people don’t behave according to my plan. I get upset and defeated. Everyone ends up cranky, complaining or quitting. This is what I have learned: When I lay out all the materials, design an open/safe/fun environment, empower all participants, AND THEN LET GO, magic can happen. People need to be free to have their own experience.