When my wife and I found out we were going to have a baby, we started reading books, talking to friends and family, following mommy/daddy blogs, etc. One consistent theme we heard was something to the effect of “you’ll be surprised how much your child teaches you.” I was 26 years old. Not exactly new at this whole game of life; so I took it with a grain of salt. But here I sit; watching my 15 month old daughter run around our house, and I’m in awe of the lessons she teaches me every single day. Below are the 5 most important ones (in my opinion at least):
1. Love is unconditional- I know this is nothing new to the masses. However, I distinctly remember all the times I told a family member that I hated them, or that I didn’t love them. I remember when I was younger and earlier in my marriage, thinking after a severe argument with my wife, that “our love was dissipating.” My daughter taught me that this is not so in such a humbling way. Every time we correct her, scold her, reprimand her for doing something naughty, or mean she would get angry with us. I was convinced early on that she was going to hate me for being a disciplinarian. But 30 seconds after being scolded or reprimanded, she would come right back over, with a pout on her sweet little face, and lay her head on my knee. Or she would bring her blanket over to me and raise her arms up for me to pick her up, and she immediately puts her head on my chest. My heart would swell with pride and it was then that it dawned on me. No matter how much we mess up in our life, no matter how many mistakes we made or how severe the arguments were; you don’t put conditions on love. You correct their/ your own course of action, and immediately let them know that you love them.
2. It’s okay to cry- As a man and a father, I thought I had to be tough. I couldn’t show emotion lest I be thought of as weak. All the emotional experiences I’ve had till now I suppressed. When I was going through bouts of depression, and felt useless as a father and a husband, I swallowed the hurt and tried to muscle through. My daughter walks up to me, with a piece of garbage, I throw it away, and she cries. She cries when her juice is gone, or when her toy is just out of reach. She cries because she knows no other way to express her emotion that she’s feeling. Crying leads to consoling, and comforting. Sometimes, as a father, a husband, an employee, or a man in general I don’t know how to express any emotion other than sitting down and crying. I now know that it’s not weakness, but a demonstration of humility that allows you to regroup yourself, and carry on.
3. There’s more important things than cleaning- My wife is notorious for going on cleaning rampages weekly. Our daughter is like a little tornado; any where she goes, any room she’s in, she leaves a path of toys and trash. We’d spend our evenings feeding her, putting her to sleep, then spend the next two hours picking up and cleaning up after everything. By the time we were done, we were exhausted and had hardly spent any time with each other. Familial tension increased and arguments ensued. Irritability caused irrational arguments. Then one night, I realized that when our daughter was bringing us toys, books, pens, stuffed animals, etc, she was happy, and usually the source of our evening entertainment. It was quality time that became more important than cleaning.
4. It’s the simple things in life that matter- I used to disagree with the statement that “money doesn’t buy happiness”. Happiness was intangible, but money sure could buy things that made me happy! It was sure nice to go on extravagant vacations, have the newest things, or the fattest bank account. What I didn’t look at was the basics. We have a roof over our head, food on the table, and people who love us. We were trying to buy her all these nice new toys, and she was perfectly content with a pan and spoon, or a box that her toy came in. She provided hours of entertainment not only for herself, but for everyone around her. Her pure, heartfelt smile when she learned how to “drum” or when she fit herself into the box she was playing with reminded me of a simpler time, where technology didn’t rule our lives, and the small and simple things were what life was all about.
5. Celebrate ALL life’s accomplishments- I have always taken things in life for granted. Walking, running, sitting and standing, climbing up and down. I would quietly take pride when I learned something new, but left it at that. Watching my daughter learn to “sit down”, and then “sit ALL the way down” was met with cheering and clapping by us, and pride and clapping by her. The first time she climbed up into the rocking chair that her great-grandpa built, turned around and sat down…followed by her sliding back off, was momentous. But so was every time she’s done it since. She gets so happy when she sees or hears us clapping and her face lights up with the brightest smile I’ve ever seen. There’s nothing I want more than to see her proud of her accomplishments; no matter how “small” they may seem.
In the grand scheme of things, the lessons she’s taught me are not new. They are, however, things of the past that were long forgotten as I grew up. Re-learning them has brought me back to a simpler place, where the foundations of love, learning, and life are re-rooted and renewed and I can revel in the joy of watching my daughter grow .