May 8, 2014

Life Lessons From a Three Year Old


I first ran this post almost four years ago. My then-three year old grandson was the inspiration. He is now seven, and continues to teach me lessons in curiosity and creativity every day. See if you can learn something from him (and virtually all children we come in contact with)


The premise is simple: pay attention to what a child does to gain valuable insight into some basic rules for joyful living.  Here are a few life lessons, courtesy of my grandson.

You can wear the same shirt 2 days in a row.  Adults are often obsessed with cleanliness and freshness. Clothes washers get bigger and faster each year for a reason. If we wear something for even a few hours it is likely to go into the clothes hamper or off to the cleaners. Three year olds aren't concerned with such things. If the shirt covers me, keeps me warm, and isn't too big or small, what does a jelly stain matter?  Who cares that I wore it yesterday? In fact, I don't remember what I wore yesterday.

 I'd save a load of wash every Saturday if I followed his lead. The bigger lesson he is teaching is to not be overly concerned with little things that don't matter much. My grandson saves his focus for the important stuff: food, play time, naps, and his sisters. If something doesn't get in the way of his enjoyment of those four issues, then why worry?

The best toys are the simplest. Give almost any child a cardboard box and he or she will play with it for hours. It becomes a boat, a rocket ship, a train, a fort, the list is endless.

Yet, every Christmas billions of dollars are spend on fancy, high-tech, plastic toys that are forgotten much quicker than the big box in the corner. Complexity is something adults seem to relish, but not kids.

The solution to many problems is often the simplest. In fact, something called Occam's Razor is a well-known scientific principle. It says the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. While adults don't spend much time playing with toys, the belief that something must be expensive or complicated to be best is just not true. Finding my "cardboard box" might be better for me in the long run.

It is OK to create a mess occasionally. Children live in a world of messiness. They are at their creative best when things are strewn everywhere. They easily find connections and uses for all that stuff. While I have no proof, I would bet their minds are a bit messy, too. All sorts of random thoughts, impressions, and stimulations are continuously bouncing around in there. Over time an order is imposed and they learn to think like we do.

Maybe we'd be better off thinking like them, at least part of the time. I am at my peak of production when stacks of books, legal pads, and paper cover the desk. Sticky notes line the edges of the computer screen. It is when I stop creating that I put everything in piles, clean up the papers, and clear off the desktop. Order has returned. Creativity has stopped. I think I'd like to be messier more often.

At times you have to do something you don't want to do. Watch my grandson when it is time to go to bed, or turn off his Thomas & Friends video. Rebellion bubbles just under the surface. He is totally absorbed by some game or play activity, but it is time to stop and do something else. He may not be happy, but he does it. As I noted in last month's post, he knows where the power is. He respects his parents and does their bidding. Does that mean he is always happy about it? Not likely.

As an adult we know there are a lot of things we have to do we don't want to do. In fact, for many of us, that seems to make up most of our day. Unlike a child, we often forget that everything we want, when we want it, isn't going to happen. We get angry or stressed, rude or combative. We have clearly forgotten we don't make all the rules and there are consequences when we forget that.

Changes in routine can be very exciting. The grandkids have their first sleepover away from home in a few days, at our house. My grandson is beside himself with excitement. He was ready to start packing a week ago. His mom had to make a calendar so he could cross off the days until the big event. Both kids visit our home every week or two so that isn't the reason for the excitement. I'm guessing it is a change in where they will sleep and all the things that will be different from their regular schedule that have both of them on cloud 9. It will not be routine.

Change can be exciting whatever your age. This blog makes it quite clear that I view retirement as one of the most exciting and enjoyable times of my life. The routine of working for over 30 years gave way to a time where the only routine is the one I create. And, I am free to create a new routine whenever I want. Come to think of it I like sleepovers, too. In my case, a nice resort in Hawaii or a B & B in England  is probably more my speed than a sleeping bag in the living room. (note: if I were writing this day, I'd probably mention an RV

Love is all you need. With apologies to the Beatles, children are supposed to live in a world of love. I know that doesn't happen all the time and that is a tragedy. But, for youngsters like my grandkids their world is safe, secure, and makes sense because they are loved. They have no doubt that mommy and daddy will protect them and always be there for them. Their world view doesn't yet include hate or oppression or rancor. Their world is love.

The adult world is not so lucky. I'm not going to dwell on all the reasons  but  I doubt many would disagree with the belief that all of us would be a whole lot happier and  joyful if our world view was closer to that of a 3 year old. We know that love isn't all you need. But, the more of it you have in your life the more life you will have in you. 


22 comments:

  1. Cute . . . but I dunno, sometimes I think retirement is nothing but the process of progressing back to the mindset of a three year old, the process of letting go and giving over responsibility to other people.

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    1. Remember, as a three year old there was regular nap time and freedom to play whenever we wanted. You may be right, Tom; that sounds quite a bit like retirement.

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  2. Hi Bob,
    Great food for thought.....so many times the innocent gives us perspective. Toddlers, children and animals always make me smile because of their expressions and interest in the most basic things. I don't have grandchildren yet, (I have two grown daughters) but I know that I will see the things you observe as well. Great post!
    Dale
    PS. I will probably still change my shirt if I have a big glob of jelly on it.

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    1. I seem to get some type of food on my shirt, usually at lunch. I will wait until bed time to change. Maybe that is my innate "rebel" sense, or I don't want to do 2 loads of laundry this weekend.

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  3. Your post today reminded me of a book I read many, many years ago. A little quick Googling, and I found the following:

    “These are the things I learned (in Kindergarten):

    1. Share everything.
    2. Play fair.
    3. Don't hit people.
    4. Put things back where you found them.
    5. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.
    6. Don't take things that aren't yours.
    7. Say you're SORRY when you HURT somebody.
    8. Wash your hands before you eat.
    9. Flush.
    10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
    11. Live a balanced life - learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
    12. Take a nap every afternoon.
    13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
    14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Stryrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
    15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
    16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.”
    ― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

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    1. I have read that book a few times. Mr. Fulghum had it right. #15 is a tough lesson to learn, but important.

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  4. Nice reminder to focus on what matters, relax, enjoy people more than stuff, and stay open to change!!

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    1. We got the tow bar and all the associated equipment installed, so I will be contacting you shortly about drive up your way. I need to get comfortable driving up and down mountains with a car behind the RV, and enjoy some new people---you and Ken!

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    2. Soooo sorry we will not be in Pine that week!!!!!! I hope we can keep trying and in the fall when the leaves are turning, or even late summer if you're up in Payson/Christopher Creek/Strawberry way, we can meet up,Bob!

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  5. Great post! One of the best parts of my retirement has been enjoying the everyday, small (but really not so small) enjoyments that I didn't take time for when I was working. I suspect I COULD have taken that time; I just assumed I never had the time. I remember reading the original post before I retired & thought about it, but couldn't see beyond the everyday "stuff" -- it was great fun to re-read it now from a totally different perspective.

    pam

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    1. I'm not sure I believed all the points of this post when I first wrote it, I just thought it was entertaining. Like you, this second exposure 3 years later brings with it a fresh appreciation for the thoughts.

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  6. I am like Mark.....I also thought of the Kindergarten book and how many life lessons we can learn from small children. I was also reminded of the first weekend I was retired. The grandchildren were usually here on Sundays and knew that Mamaw went to work on Mondays. The kid were 3 and 8 at the time. When I mentioned not having to go to work the next day the 3yr-old wanted to know why and I told him I was now retired. He asked what that meant. Before I could answer, his 8yr old sister told him that was a forever vacation. I still sometimes chuckle when I think of that but am reminded of this great gift of retirement I have been blessed with. Kids tend to keep it short and to the point and don't sugar coat it.....we can learn a lot......out of the mouth of babes!
    I so enjoyed this post....made me smile and reminded me to KISS....Keep it simple...I prefer Sweetie..not Stupid)! Thanks, Bob! You made my day!!!

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    1. A forever vacation...a good summary from a youngster, and I like your change to the last word of KISS.

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  7. We can all learn from the simplicity of a childs mind, especially when it comes to creativity vs. $$. How many times have we watched a toddler have more fun with the box an expensive toy came in, rather than the toy?
    Creating a mess is what artists do best. When you live with a neatnik it can be a problem. I guess the creative mind functions better in chaos? Anyway...that's why I can't wait to have a room of my own, so my inner 3yr.old can come alive again!
    b

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    1. You will need to add extra pages to your artist web site for all the new creativity.

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    2. That will be a happy thing! Can't wait.

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  8. I've learned so much from the kids in my world and continue to do so. This message was the gist of a presentation I attended last night called Remembering to Play, facilitated by life coach Vince Gowmon (check out his website www.vincegowmon.com). When we're busy with making a living and cleaning up the messes as adults we forget that life happens outside of our agendas and messes often equal creativity and personal growth. There will never be more time in a day so I try to manage my energy not my time. I've always loved the kindergarten lessons.

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    1. Kids live in the moment, adults tend to live in the past and future. I don't know how many times I have read that living in the "now" is how one gets a full appreciation of life. It is a lesson I struggle with every single day.

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  9. RetirementallyChallenged.comSat May 10, 04:37:00 PM MST

    We don't have kids but all of these certainly ring true. I especially liked the first one. After next Friday, I will no longer have to remember what I already wore that week... freedom! Btw, for some reason I've stopped receiving your posts by email... can't figure it out. I tried to set it up again but it says that I'm already signed up. So, that's probably one of the things I will miss about work, there's no IT department at home!

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    1. Send me your e-mail address and I can add you back for e-mail copies of the post. This has happened to a few others; it is a glitch in Google's system. Reach me at satisfyingretirement@gmail.com

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  10. I was planning to regress to my teenage years in retirement (no cares, stay up late, lie in, be totally selfish if I feel so inclined etc..) but now I realise just how much more fun it might be to go back a decade earlier !!

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    1. Yeas, skip back beyond the years of pimples, mean girls and sex-obsessed boys, beyond the peer-pressure and overly-protective parents. As A.A. Milne said, "I'm six now and as clever as clever, and think I'll stay six for ever and ever."

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