If you have children, you may have gotten one of these cards that precedes the arrival of your little one. The cards that get passed around the workplace, everyone signs it with their best wishes, maybe an inside joke, or some valuable insights from a seasoned mother or father. It takes the form of a penned collage of much appreciated congratulatory words, and a nice keepsake for the expecting parents is created.
Just before Marcus’ arrival, we were happy to be given one of these cards from my co-workers. I opened the envelope and took the time to read each and every message that was written there. One message in particular stood out to me. I was probably drawn to it initially because it was dead center in the middle of the card, even overlapping the fold crease as it simultaneously encroached on both the left and right sides of the card. But when I read it, I realized that this message was a bit different than most of the others. The message read:
“Don’t worry…kids are great teachers”
So for some reason, I felt this particular message stood out as a bit different from the others. And it probably held my attention for a moment longer than the rest. I likely had a couple of initial reactionary thoughts after first reading it.
First reactionary thought: ‘Umm…What do you mean Don’t worry? I don’t think I am that worried to begin with. Should I be more worried?‘
And second reactionary thought: ‘Yes…I know, I know…Kids will teach me plenty of new things. This is pretty obvious. I will learn to master the art of changing a diaper while half asleep at 4 am. And I will learn how to diagnose my baby’s health from his poop alone. Colour, frequency, and consistency. I will learn to become the leading expert in the field of my son’s poop. Great. Thank you oh wise little teacher.’
Anyways, I finished reading all the kind words written on that card and put it away for the time being. I didn’t think too much more beyond those first initial thoughts.
But let’s fast forward to today. And Marcus is now 5 months old. He is still very young. And he is discovering and learning all the new and exciting things that makes a baby be a baby. But even at this early and developing age, it is incredible to me to think about how much I have actually learnt from him as his father in a short amount of time. He has in fact taught me plenty. I now see how fitting and honest that one message I found to be so intriguing, smack dab in the middle of that card, truly is. Kids really are great teachers, and so much of what I have learnt goes way beyond diapers and poop. I would like to share a few of the lessons my little teacher has taught me…
Lesson #1: Life is Better When You Are Curious
It is in a baby’s nature to be curious. They have this wild and unique perspective of the world as it unfolds in front of them. Just about everything they see or experience is new. When I observe my son in his states of curiousness, I imagine what the thought bubbles floating through his mind might look like…I imagine a continuos series of What? Why? and How? He doesn’t seem too concerned with figuring out the answers to these questions, and at the same time he is developing his early understanding of what those ‘thoughts’ even mean. But he is just happy being curious, and he will move on to the next What? Why? and How? as something new catches his attention. He is constantly looking, observing and wondering. And all this ‘new’ is amazing to him.
As he gets older he will start to figure out the many What? Why? and How’s? as he discovers more and more. This is just part of the entire growing up process in life. But I hope he never stops being curious. I hope, just like he does now, he continues to move onto the next What? Why? and How?
It is so easy to get distracted as we literally have answers to just about anything we wish right at our fingertips. And as the ability to get information becomes much faster and easier, we have to be humble enough to realize that the more answers we discover and have access to, the more What? Why? and How’s? we should be asking. There is always a constant flow of old things we don’t fully understand, and new things the world has to offer.
The world is changing incredibly fast. And I think there are great benefits and a necessity to match this changing world with the desire to be and stay curious. We should all try to be like kids and be curious enough to pursue and explore all these unknowns. And when the time comes, to appreciate the amazement of the ‘new’ when these things are seen or discovered for the first time. Life is better when you are curious.
Lesson #2: Life is Better When You Ask for Help
When Marcus needs help, he lets us know. Whether he is hungry, wants to play, or just made a mess in his diaper…he will let us know that he needs something. If he needs help, he asks. No hesitation.
He is not too proud. He does not worry if he is bothering me or his mother. And he is not worried that one of us will reject his pleas and say ‘sorry can’t help’. But as an adult, it becomes difficult to overcome feelings of pride and embarrassment when admitting ‘I need help’. Life can get complicated and often feels like it can be overwhelming at times. Feelings of weakness or inadequacy can be paralyzing. And in these moments of what feels like total helplessness and vulnerability, it seems almost necessary to keep things internalized and rationalize the many unfounded reasons why it is better to not ask for help.
“It’s my own problem. I can figure it out”
“I don’t want to be a bother to anyone.”
“Besides, they are probably too busy to help me anyways.”
But for a kid, it just comes natural to ask for help. They don’t play through these rationalizations in their mind to the point it prevents them from doing so. Obviously over time, the hope is they will develop into their own self sufficient and independent beings. And eventually, Marcus will start to figure things out on his own, be able to feed himself, and be able to take care of most of his own needs. But at the same time, as he encounters and overcomes new challenges, I hope he maintains his openness to ask for help when he needs it. And not just from his mom and me, but I hope he has the willingness to ask for help from others too. And I hope he reciprocates, and has the level of empathy to offer help to those who need it whenever he can as well. Because just like parents to their children, there is actually an entire world full of people out there who are willing to offer help. Often we just have to ask.
I don’t believe that asking for help shows weakness or inadequacy. Instead, it shows an incredibly strong character and a willingness to open up when we admit that we don’t have all the answers. And if we can all learn the ability to ask for help when needed, without hesitating or worry, then it could very well become infectious. Imagine how freeing it would be and the possibilities we could all achieve, if asking for help and wanting to help others, were to become totally second nature. Just like it is for a child. Life is better when you ask for help.
Lesson #3: Life is Better When You Are Happy…Now
I think we all can agree that no real good comes from worry or stress. There are even posters, memes, t-shirts, and songs written about it. But it is so easy to get caught up in all the stresses that life presents…paying bills, seemingly endless commitments and responsibilities, or simply getting frustrated with the one Starbuck’s barista on staff because we are late for an appointment and the line is way too long.
But when I look at Marcus, I realize how he is so care free, ‘light’, and happy. He only cares about now. He does not worry about what will make him happy tomorrow or years from now. And he doesn’t even care about what he may have been upset about yesterday or even moments ago. I sometimes pick him up as he cries, and in one of those rare moments of fatherly victory, I am somehow able to get him to shift his mood from crying to laughing. And it happens almost instantly. It is sometimes so instant, that as he laughs, the corners of his forming smile raise up to meet the already forgotten tears that are still streaming down his face.
He just lets it go…he is happy, care-free, and ‘light’. Not a worry in the world. Above all else, I want him to never change and be able to keep this one thing about himself. In fact, I want him to teach me how to do that! This Lesson #3 is probably the most obvious to me, yet the most difficult one for me to learn. Much much harder than the Fluid Dynamics or Aeroelasticity classes I struggled through in University. I hope my teacher in this particular lesson stays patient with me. Because I need to learn it, and I know that life is better when you are happy…now.
Life is better when you are curious, ask for help, and are happy…now. These are just three of the amazing lessons that I have learnt in these very early months with my son. There are many others, and I look forward to learning the many more I hope are to come. I just haven’t realized them all yet. I count myself extremely lucky to have this privilege of being a father to Marcus. And I am grateful to have received that card with that message “Kids are great teachers”, that really allowed me to reflect and continue to observe all the incredible things I can learn from my son.
I think all parents have this deep desire and feels a great need to protect and provide for their kids. I really want to balance these responsibilities as I do my best in helping to guide him through life, but at the same time, letting my son discover his own individual ideas and experiences as he navigates the world in front of him. And as he does this, I think it will be just as important for me to be an eager and willing student.
He can’t stand up yet at the front of a classroom to write these lessons on a chalk board. And even if he managed to get some chalk in his hands, it would only be a matter of time before it ended up in his mouth. But I am very thankful that I have this little wealth of knowledge in my life. As he continues to grow, develop and learn things himself, I am incredibly happy that I get to be at the front of his class to witness all he can teach me.
Thanks for reading.
Please leave a comment if you have other ‘kid teachings’ you would like to share.