When the Children are the Teachers: 3 Kids-Inspired Lessons on How to Live
In the run up to Mother’s Day, the stores are full of cards that help children express their appreciation for all of the things their moms have taught them over the years. I like to read the messages and consider how to be the type of mother that Hallmark greetings are made for. Likewise, I enjoy taking my time to select just the right sentiment for my own loving, giving mom. Most of all, though, as I read the cards about gentle hearts and wise souls, I think about all of the life lessons that my children are teaching me. This year on Mother’s Day, I honor and thank my daughters for showing me so much about how to really live:
Mind the Journey
As a student and a professional, I was always a Type-A worker, with my nose to the grindstone and a deadline forever in mind. Then one night, about two years into motherhood, I learned an unforgettable lesson about “minding the journey” as I was putting my daughter to bed. I was exhausted on that eye-opening night and ready to call it a day, so when my toddler took my hand in hers and led me toward a 50-sheet pathway of yellow construction paper that she had laid through the house, my first instinct was not my finest one. I wanted her to put it away and hop into bed—simple as that.
If not for her Daisy Duck-like two-year old voice explaining enthusiastically that she had built a yellow brick road and inviting me to “skip to Oz, Mama?” I might have stuck to my Type-A guns. Instead, my heart simply melted. In that instant, years of “destination” thinking gave way to savoring the journey that is life with little ones. We skipped along the pretend path and giggled all the way until my daughter finally fell asleep in my arms. Seriously—it was that good. Letting my task-orientation go and seizing the moment made for one of the best learning and loving moments with my daughter and I always remember that yellow “brick” pathway as one of her finest teaching moments.
I am an outdoor Mom, hoping to inspire outdoor kids. As a family, we love to go on hikes. Our favorite spot is nothing rigorous—simply a well-worn path between an old shipping canal and a lake. Pre-Yellow Brick Road night, whenever I thought about a hike, my mind usually went right to a destination; the peak’s summit, the end of the trail, etc. I can’t lie and say that instinct has totally disappeared, but I can say that hiking with kids is like the world’s best exercise in re-training my brain to put aside the destination, and focus on the journey.
In the last year, our family has grown by two—snapping turtles, that is. Whereas my eyes are usually following the path ahead, my naturally curious daughters are noticing everything, including two quarter-sized, baby snapping turtles. Since my little nature-lovers bring their Bug Kits with them on every hike, we had collection jars on each of the hikes in which the turtles were spotted. Now, a full-year after we first found “Snappy,” he is about 15 lbs and has become best friends with our cat (from within the safety of his aquarium).
Tiny reptiles, interesting-shaped rocks, colorful weeds (er, flowers); you name it, my kids see it, pick it up, name it, and want to keep it. They teach me to slow down and notice the world, rather than just walk right through it. Best. Hiking. Guides. Ever.
If I needed a Mommy mantra, this would be it. Though I have spent the first part of my life multi-tasking with the best of ‘em and priding myself on what can be accomplished in a day, my children have taught me that it is better to be a human being than a human doing. When we hike together or spend an extra 20 minutes before bed laughing and playing, we enjoy our finest moments. My task list will always be there, but my children are only young once—and the time is flying by.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I thank my kids for showing me all that I really need to know about life, love, and living well.
Signe Whitson is a licensed social worker with over ten years of experience working with children, adolescents, and families. She is the author of How to Be Angry: An Assertive Anger Expression Group Guide for Kids and The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools and Workplaces, 2nd ed. Signe is also a freelance writer and featured blogger for several popular parenting and mental health websites including Psychology Today, Mom It Forward, Parentella, and Passive Aggressive Diaries. She also offers her advice through My Baby Clothes, a boutique where you can find baby clothes, baby hats and adorable baby headbands.