Teaching our children is an oft-discussed topic among parents. What and who should educate them, and which environment will provide the best platform for learning. Factors including genetics, culture, family structure and parenting styles are considered. Variables like demographics and geography find their way into the equation. We debate, we rate, we rant. We theorize, and we agonize. We judge ourselves and, unfortunately, each other – sometimes quite harshly. Many of us take an academic approach, feverishly studying all that we want to incorporate into our kids’ scholastic and familial development as well as anything that should be avoided. There are endless articles, blogs, books, podcasts and programs to feed the frenzy.
So oversaturated are we with information that it can be difficult to locate and extract the data which applies to our unique situations. My own experience with this has been finding myself hyperfocused on one detail or subject, missing how it all fits into the bigger picture. As the expression goes, I cannot see the forest for the trees. Perhaps the best example of this phenomenon in my recent life is, I am realizing, that I have spent most of my time as a parent trying to learn things myself in order to then teach my children. What I’ve been missing is that my best teachers have been right in front of me the whole time.
Today the girl from whom I’ve learned the most turns 11. This seems both incomprehensible and impossible, because I am certain she was a toddler just yesterday. Lilia has gone from a darling, cherub-cheeked imp to a bright, beautiful, capable young lady. Like all sixth graders, she has moments of sass, and she shoots her brother the occasional teenage-y side-eye, however Lili continues to be the loveliest child anyone could ever hope to have.
Here are some of the lessons she has taught me in the 9+ years I’ve been privileged to have her in my life:
1. Happiness is contagious. It is very often caught by adults from children.
2. Prolonged silence from a small child is extremely suspicious…
3. Stomp in the puddles. Getting dirty is sometimes an integral part of the spirit of fun.
4. It is never too early to start wearing heels. Apparently girls who begin practicing at 2 years of age both enjoy and remain proficient at walking in them (a memo I clearly missed, which must be the reason I have more stagger than swagger).
5. Very young kids can be capable of astounding levels of kindness and patience.
6. Not all older siblings resent the very existence of the littler ones.
7. Friendship need not be limited to those who speak the same language. If given the opportunity, two wonderful children will find a way to bond and communicate.
8. Children are amazingly resilient, much more so than their parents.
9. From a very young age, certain special souls just get it: when to offer assistance, who needs them the most, how to assuage a little boy’s anxiety…
10. Find out what brings a person joy and make a point of doing / making / providing it.
11. Approach each person you meet with an open mind and heart.
Being part of Lili’s life for the past nine years has not just been a learning experience, it has been an incredible gift. I am enjoying watching her evolve and cannot wait to see where this year takes her.
Happy Birthday to the best kid I know!