As a new mama, I almost immediately found solace in the fact that parenting is basically teaching. As someone with a background in education, I thought, "I can do this, it's what I do". I have to admit that was definitely my ego talking because most days--especially the days when I think I have this whole parenting thing figured out--I get unexpectedly get jolted into "Where the hell is the parachute?" and "When's this gonna get easier?"
The truth is that the magic, for me, is found somewhere in the messy middle. In quietly savoring every minute with my babies while I can still call them that. In learning all the tiny lessons they are here to teach me. And so the Type-A-Teacher becomes the student. Here are the 5 most beautiful lessons I've learned from my toddler thus far:
1. There's no such thing as cool. Toddlers are never walking around wondering if their hair is out of place or worrying that their outfits don't match perfectly (or at all). My girl doesn't give a crap if the kids on the playground say "no" when she courageously asks them if she can play with them. She moves on to the next thing unaffected and still as joyous as before the rejection. She doesn't have the need to "fit in" that we begrudgingly pick-up and inadvertently nourish somewhere in between the space of childhood and adulthood. Toddlers march to the beat of their own drums and nothing is freaking cooler than that.
2. We need to play too. We were in our front yard watering the plants the other day and my toddler shouted "Play mama, playyyy" as she gracefully splashed in and out of the water, a huge smile cemented on her face. I'll admit it: The thought of running through dirty hose water had me less than enthusiastic but witnessing her joy pushed me to throw my logic out the window and be in the moment with her. We splashed in the water together and ended up in an uncontrollable middle-school giggle fit. It didn't matter dinner was going to be late that night or that I only had two things from my to-do list checked off for the day. All that mattered was the moment and our playful presence in it.
3. Sometimes all you need is a good cry. When we don't allow ourselves to feel what we are feeling, our emotions have a tendency to build up in our system and become, as a dear friend of mine lovingly calls them, dust bunnies. When we address and honor the feelings we are having, we build our emotional intelligence. So often parents are hushing their kids to "stop crying" or else. The thing is, those tears can teach us to be more compassionate both to ourselves and our little ones as they build their own emotional IQ's--something that, research has shown, is a big predictor to resilience as they grow.
4. Creativity is an outlet for joy. "What should I draw?", I asked my girl the other day as we sat down for some QT over arts + crafts. "You think about it, mama," she promptly urged me to figure my own damn drawing as she was busy creating our family portrait. I didn't want to think about it. I had a sink full of dishes and an inbox full of email that I desperately wanted to sit down and tackle. But when we force ourselves to put the pen to paper, chalk to the sidewalk or paint to canvas, we are bound to be surprised at what ends up coming out. When we cultivate our inner creativity (yes, we all have it) it's a pathway to living a more joyous life.
5. Use your words. As soon as I see that I'mGonnaFreakout face on our three-year-old, I try and gently urge her to find a word or phrase she can use to express what she's going through. As adults, we feel lost for words too. When we get pissed. When we are hurt. When we are healing. The challenge is in the split second when we choose to take a deep breath, process, and then find constructive words. Or the not-so-cute-alternative of throwing an adult-sized tantrum. In teaching a toddler how to use her words we can learn how to use ours more effectively, too.
When we look at parenting through the lens of a student, there is much wisdom if we just let our babes teach us.
Here's to learning from the little ones.