It’s pretty astounding how much kids can teach us. I never realized how completely dumb I was until my almost two year old started to teach me lessons I never would have learned on my own.
1. Personality is way more important than looks.
My son is the life of the party wherever we go. He’s cute as can be, and he is always making me laugh. But what makes him so undeniably cool isn’t his flat stomach or his impeccable wardrobe, but rather his amazing personality. That little boy has more personality packed into his pinkie toe than most people have altogether. He is goofy, outgoing, and not afraid to be himself. He dances like a fool, he laughs at all the wrong moments, and he jabbers away about nothing. But he is perfect just the way he is. I am constantly caught up in how I look, what I’m wearing, or what to say next to impress passers-by. Who cares? I know it sounds cliché, but seriously, it truly is what’s on the inside that matters most.
2. Holding onto the last bite for fear that you’ll never eat again is super pointless.
My son has this habit of saving the last bite of whatever he is eating and just slowly licking it until it finally disintegrates into a nasty mess all over his hands and the dining room floor. He clings onto that last bite of macaroni and cheese/chocolate chip cookie/apple slice like it’s the last piece of food he will ever have. I sincerely think he is convinced he will never eat again, so he has to savor that last bite for as long as possible. It cracks me up. But it has also shown me something about myself. He doesn’t know he will eat again, so out of fear and self-preservation, he holds onto something until it becomes a nasty mess. I do the same thing with love. I find someone I care about, then something goes wrong, and I want to cling to that last little bite of love until it turns into a mangled disaster, because I’m afraid I will never have love again. It’s time to let go. Enjoy it (whatever it is—food, love, whatever) while it’s there, but don’t hold onto it so long that you ruin it completely.
3. It’s probably time I stop hating on my body.
My son is super observant. He picks up on the tiniest things I say and do, and he almost always emulates those things. It’s endearing to see a little clone of myself running around trying to be just like mommy, but it’s also terrifying. Growing up, I watched my mom berate her body on a daily basis. (I love you mom, but it’s true.) She didn’t like her thighs, her stomach, etc. etc. And I have struggled with my own self-confidence because of that. I picked up on all those little cues, and I now hate all those same parts of my body that I should actually love. It’s probably time to start really enjoying the body I have, because I want my son to grow up to love the body he has. I don’t want to pass my self-hatred onto him, and I want him to see me loving myself and all my flaws so that he not only has a realistic view of himself, but also of other women, and he will be able to love their flaws as well.
4. It’s okay to throw a fit sometimes.
My son is generally pretty well behaved and mild mannered, but every once in a while, he likes to have a major meltdown. When he was just a baby, I would freak out every time he freaked out. I would be embarrassed of his cries and I would remove myself from any and all other people until he was done. But babies are people, too. They just don’t know how to handle all their emotions properly yet. Sometimes I cry and scream and throw things, and no one yells at me for it. No one makes me sit in time out when I bawl my eyes out because I’m exhausted or I’m not having a good day. So guess what? My son will cry, and that’s okay. (Granted, I don’t put up with tantrums over things like “mommy didn’t give me that candy bar” or something.) It’s okay to feel feelings and to get mad sometimes. Everyone does it. Adults just know how to hide it a lot better.
5. Trying to keep him away from certain movies/toys/foods is a waste of time.
I hate Elmo. I cannot stand Elmo. I want Elmo to go away forever. But of course, my son adores him (it). I had resolved long before my son was born to never allow him to watch Elmo, touch Elmo, look at Elmo, or even utter Elmo’s name. Yeah, that didn’t work. He goes to daycare. He spends time around other kids. He lives in a world outside of my nice, safe, Elmo-proof house. So he quickly came to know and love Elmo. As much as I might not like it, I cannot protect my son from everything. I can’t hide him from the world and keep him in a little bubble. It just doesn’t work. He will grow up around cussing, inappropriate movies, drugs, alcohol, and a ton of other things I would prefer he never see/experience. I can try to shelter him from those things and pretend they don’t exist, or I can acknowledge their existence and do my best to raise a young man who will make the right decisions when he comes into contact with those things. It isn’t easy or fun, but the second option will yield much better results, every time.
6. Love isn’t just a word.
I can tell my son I love him all day every day, but if I don’t do something to actually demonstrate that love, it means nothing to him. He knows how to say “love you,” and although it’s super adorable, he has no idea what that means. He simply says it because I say it. To him, the word love means nothing. My actions, which are done in love, are what really matter. He sees me cooking his meals, wiping his nasty butt, cuddling him to sleep, reading him books, and giving him hugs; and to him, that’s love. It should be the same with everyone we love. Just saying it shouldn’t be enough. We should show it. Everyone knows actions speak louder than words. But that phrase, which is usually used in a negative light, is also true on the positive side of things. When we go above and beyond to actually act upon our words, an “I love you” suddenly becomes much more meaningful.
My son is by far the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me. He’s wild, unruly, crazy, and slightly psychotic, but he’s the perfect teacher. He has shown me more than I ever bargained for, and it hasn’t even been two years. I can’t wait to see what other shenanigans he has in store for me. I’m willing and ready for whatever new lessons he throws my way.