We unwrapped another successful family Christmas around our house. The apogee was the opening of a pair of American Girl dolls by my two daughters. The looks on their faces brought me the same joy that it hopefully brought you this holiday season when you gave a gift. Their unbundled excitement made me wonder what I can learn from kids.
A. Be excited in life.
Too often adults get caught up in 'life'. In paying bills or working or having a kitchen floor you could eat off. Sometimes I feel like dropping these things and just playing with my daughters and sometimes I do, and it feels good. It feels invigorating to drop into their world and play with them.
B. Each day has 24 hours
Both of my kids are in school, but not regularly enough to have a schedule. Our older daughter goes five days a week, our younger daughter three, but they've just started school and don't understand weekdays and weekends. My wife's schedule also doesn't fit the traditional 9-5, Monday through Friday. To my daughters there is no workweek, weekend, or three-day holiday with time off. They view each day as a day and live in the moments of that time. This is something that I'm going to try to reflect more on this year, focusing on the inherent qualities of the moment rather than what might be coming.
C. Children don't follow eating rules
I've thought about this before, How to have the Energy of a Five Year Old, and was reminded of it during our Christmas feast(s). I would go through the food line, choose to fill my plate, eat the food, and go back again. My kids didn't eat anything at some of the family gatherings, choosing instead a peanut butter sandwich later that night. A plate full of meat, potatoes, and desserts, or a peanut butter sandwich - one of us is clearly making better food choices. Kids eat when they're hungry and will generally make good choices. I'm 25 years older and don't fully understand this idea.
D. Kids have great imaginations
When I started this post I didn't have anything to write about. How is that possible, that I can't think of anything to write about? My daughters always have ideas and so do the nephews and nieces in town.
One nephew received a toy helicopter as a gift with a string and hook on it. The mechanism is designed to attach to a rescue basket that came with the toy, but he's developed grander plans. He plans to use the helicopter to hook himself if he ever starts to fall out of bed and he he informed his mom that he could help her too. What a thrilling open-mindedness.
E. Kids learn to share better than I do
Twice my older daughter had a toy that a younger child wanted to play with, and twice we had to explain through her tears that she needed to share the toy. I was proud that she ended up sharing but somewhat embarrassed by my own non-sharing.
It's not toys adults don't share, but time. Selfish needs like going for a walk/reading this book/not changing this diaper are all thoughts I've had this holiday or another. Sometimes we get so focused on our own things, that we don't think about the bigger picture. Why are we spending time with our families this season and shouldn't we focus on the best parts of that?
F. Kids are mostly nice to other kids
It seems like the younger kids are, the nicer they play with other kids. There's probably a psychological development that I'm unaware of for why this is, but it's certainly in effect. My youngest niece is kinder to anyone than my oldest nephew and my two daughters are in the middle in both their age and kindness.
G. Kids like people more than screens
This year I was lucky to realize that I should be looking out, not looking down and kids seem to know this. Last week, we turned on Tinker Bell for a group of children so they would be quiet while the even younger children were sleeping. The movie finished before the naps, so we turned on Monster's University but the kids had had enough. The kids preferred the company of people to concentration on pixels.
H. Walks are wonderful
Normally I walk our dogs a few times each week but while we've had family around, we've been taking walks as groups and it's been such a pleasurable experience. It's nice to catch up with each other and get some fresh air and exercise. I'm reading Daily Rituals and daily walks are ubiquitous among the subjects profiled.
In addition to the exercise, I'm also not grazing the also ubiquitous plates of cookies and food, I'm getting fresh air, and seeing things I rarely get to see. Just the other day I saw two planes refueling and a bald eagle.
I. Kids are molded in our likenesses
Being around my in-laws and their children has reminded me that we all are influencing our children. Each of my nieces and nephews share some of the best traits with their parents. It's neat to see how different they are and it reminded me that each day we're shaping the world around us like a piece of clay. For our families, it's about how much the kids are allowed to run, eat dessert, or how much they've learned to push for their freedom. In my life though it's about how kind or helpful I can be.
J. Time passes quickly
My oldest niece is in a growth phase where she's losing some of her younger self and adding on some of the physical traits she'll have when she's older. I don't know how else to say it other than it's the, look how you've grown reaction. It's the same with my daughters who are changing both into new people. It makes me so happy to see, but also reminds me of a quote from Gretchen Rubin, "The days are long, but the years are short."
That's what I've learned from kids over the holidays. What did you learn?