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.