Friday, January 31, 2014

Three Things My Children Continue To Teach Me

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn” – John Cotton Dana

In The Beginning

Since the day my first child was born I have assumed that being a parent also meant being a teacher.  I believed that as a parent it was my responsibility to teach my children how to become productive members in society.  As the years have gone by my family has gotten caught up in the cycle of life – children grow up, go off to college, and start their own careers and families.  For the most part this is correct however, now in many ways roles have switched.  My children have become the teachers and my wife and I the students.  As it turns out, I am learning just as much about life from them.  Parents can learn much from their children if they are willing to become the student.

Embrace the Chaos

Growing older has brought much change. Our house once again is quiet.  No longer is there the daily grind of practice, homework, or preparing school lunches.  As I grow older, many times I feel guilty for indulging in the treats life has to offer.  Whether it’s a chunk of fudge or a well deserved vacation, for many reasons I talk myself out of it.  My children continue to teach me that it’s okay to stop worrying so much about things; that it’s okay to enjoy the sweetness of life without worrying about it.

Over the recent holidays all my children and their families were at our house.  My wife had spent a great deal of time preparing for them.  The house was perfect.  However, once everyone arrived the orderliness and perfection were hard to come by.  The house was a mess but this time I listened to my children.  What I realized is that not only was our house a total mess but life is messy too.  I realized that just as I experienced during the recent holidays some of our best times together have been when I gave into the chaos and messiness.  It’s okay to stop worrying about everything being perfect and just embrace life for what it is.

It’s okay to laugh

When was the last time you experienced a nice big belly laugh?  When was the last time you laughed at yourself over something you did?  My children have taught me that as an adult I have forgotten how important it is to find humor in every situation.  They remind me daily how important it is to send out positive vibrations in order to experience the wonderful moments life has to offer.  Laughing is contagious; when you laugh those around you laugh.

I taught my grandson a game.  He asks, “Guess what?”  He will ask it over and over then respond with “That’s what!”  There is nothing like a fit of laughter to make the world more bearable.  The laughter in our house over the holidays lightened us up, it connected us, and most of all it gave us a different perspective.  My children reaffirmed that laughter makes everything alright.

Be Yourself

The most important lesson I taught my children was to be themselves.  In turn, they regularly remind me to be myself and not someone I am not – on occasion I have been known as the grumpy old man.  Somewhere along my journey I got caught up with how others see me.  I put on my best face and charge forward regardless of the circumstances.  Oscar Wilde once said “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”  Some people will like you and others will not.  Don’t be someone you are not with hopes of everyone liking you.  Be yourself, not what others want you to be.  Eleanor Roosevelt said, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” 

When we accept our self and others for who we are, without casting criticism or placing judgment, we create a safe and comfortable world to live in.  Accepting individuality and self expression in others also enables us to be ourselves.  My children continue to teach through their individuality, self expression and inner confidence by being themselves and not worrying about how others think they should be.

Whether you are a young parent or older parent, young adult or older adult much can be learned from children if you let them teach you.  Embracing the chaos, learning to laugh and being yourself are just a few of the things you can learn.  Regardless of your age everyone is a student. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Best Gift Ever

“God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.”

Family Gathering

Recently, at a family Christmas gathering I sat watching as the children opened their gifts.  As I sat there many memories of years past came flooding in.  As my granddaughter opened one of her gifts she yelled “it’s my most favorite gift ever”.  Then I heard my niece say “Oh man this is the best gift ever”.  As each gift was opened someone would say “oh thank you this is the best gift ever” which made me think.  What was the best gift I ever received?  What was the best gift I ever gave?

Over the years there have been many gifts that were the best ever.  I remember the Christmas morning I opened a Chemistry set with a microscope – I was ten years old.  At the time it was the best gift ever.  When I was twelve years old I received my first telescope which I still have – at the time it was the best gift ever.  Then when I turned eighteen I received a twelve string guitar which at the time was the best gift ever.  There have been many gifts over the years but have they all really been the best gifts ever?

The Christmas Holiday is a time for giving.  Each year we spend time shopping for those thoughtful gifts for family, friends and colleagues.  It’s also a time that many reflect on the past remembering the good moments and the bad.  Giving a gift demonstrates affection for the people you love and care about.  In the moment, many gifts are the best gift ever but over time fade which made me think even more about what was the best gift I ever received.  What gift do I still have that I still consider to be the best gift ever?

The Best Gift Received

The best gift I ever received was from my parents on the day I was born.  They gave me the gift of life.  As the saying goes it’s the gift that keeps giving.  Without this gift I would not be here today.  It’s a gift I never want to return, give up or re-gift.  Each passing day that I wake renews the gift my parents gave me so many years ago.  Certainly, it is an abstract way to think about a gift but consider all the gifts you have ever received.  What’s the one gift you still have that was given to you with love, caring and affection?  Each morning you wake up; think about how blessed you are to have received such an unselfish gift.  After I was born my parents gave that same gift five more times.  What makes this gift so special is not the fact that I am here today but knowing that my parent’s gift continues to this day as a labor of love for me, my brother and four sisters.

The Best Gift Given

The best gift I ever gave was the gift my wife and I gave to the world when each of our children was born.  Each is special and unique in many ways.  Children are God’s gift.  Bringing children into the world is our gift to God.  The gift I gave my children and the gift my parents gave me is not a gift that guaranteed fame and fortune rather it was a gift that guaranteed a life of being loved regardless.

Still not sure what was the best gift you ever received?  Look back over your life.  Consider what gift was given to you through a natural expression of love that you still have and each day that gift is renewed.  We live in a society that is obsessed with money and material things which makes it easy to lose sight of gifts we receive that are truly special.  In the end it really is the simplest things in life which have the greatest impact that we fail to recognize.  Receiving gifts makes me feel good inside but the best gift ever was the gift of life my parents gave me when I was born.