“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.
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.