Funnily enough, the life lessons our toddlers teach us can be more significant than anything we teach them. It’s ironic: as parents, we are the teachers. Or at least, we are expected to be. We pass along life lessons we were once taught and told to live by, but often these are the ones that we ourselves have abandoned. It all sounds tedious, but in short, my point is that although we are the ones supposed to be teaching our children, there are a lot of lessons to be learnt if we look to them. I would love to say that I’ve given my son a wealth of knowledge in his first year, but the reality is that I’ve taught him how to wave and given him a small inkling that he shouldn’t put his fingers in plug sockets, nothing groundbreaking here. As a mother, it is a given that I play a huge role in moulding the person that my baby will become – I welcomed the challenge. Little did I expect that while I’ve taught my child many a life lesson or two in his first 9 months – I could learn more from him in these first two years than he ever could from me.
Nothing worth having comes easy. Resillence is something children are born with, and as they grow, it can dwindle. As adults, we give up quickly. I tried to learn Spanish a few summers ago. I was very invested initially, spending hours listening to a mundane audio tape and filling my bedroom with flash cards. As I failed to become fluent overnight, my frustrations took over and any desire I had to be fluent disappeared. Now take my child. He learned to crawl last month. He’d been trying for weeks, maybe months. He spent most of that time in a crouching tiger position, unable to move his little hands no matter how hard he tried. If I was him, I’d have probably accepted defeat and gave in to the allure of the comfy rug and Peppa Pig, but he did not. He kept shuffling until he could crawl. Babies are resilient little buggers, and whilst that is often something we don’t necessarily see as positive (when your chasing on all fours after them), it’s something we can really learn a lesson from. If I can get even a quarter of the drive back that I once had as a child, I’ll be a much more successful adult.
You can like anything if you try it enough times Our babies all have that one food that made them bawl when we first tried to feed them it; the one that induced the tantrum of all tantrums and that was almost painful to persevere with. With a baby though, we persevere, they perservere, and eventually they start to come around. This isn’t limited to food. As adults, we pass up on things so quickly because they are not to our tastes, or they aren’t our regular go to’s, but if we gave them enough of a chance we’d probably learn to love them.
Positivity is everything When your baby wakes up in a good mood, it can turn a day around. When a baby smiles, it is infectious, it’s a task not to grin back. I’m biased as a mother, but when I look at my child and he is in a good mood, my own almost instantly improves. People can sense mood, and if your in a bad one, it will only attract other negative people. We all have bad days, myself – more often than not. I am a massive moan, a pessimist, and quite frankly more negative than I am positive. I am completely aware that when I speak, often I can suck all positivity out of a room. It’s a talent, but one I’m more than happy to give up. No one is asking you to be happy 24/7, but going into a day with a positive attitude can completely alter the outcome…
Sleep is key We categorize our children based on how well they sleep. Surely that alone tells you something? Almost unequivocally it is all that we focus on in the first few months after child birth; how they sleep at night, how they sleep during the day, why are they not sleeping? We are extremely conscious of the need for our babies to sleep, and yet, it is something we so often overlook as adults. If at any point our children decide to bless us with a long stint of shut eye, how many of us actually take full advantage of that time? It’s taken 9 months, but my baby now sleeps consistently (not through the night right enough) and it would be possible for me to get a solid 5/6 hours. But do I? Fat chance. You can often find me sitting up to all hours – whether that be to get work done or to binge watch Love Island, I’m not taking advantage of the time I have to sleep. If my child misses a nap, his entire mood is thrown off. He is angrier, less responsive and to put it blunty, a little pest at times – and the same goes for us as adults. As we get older we learn to exist on less sleep, but it doesn’t mean we require it less. If I don’t sleep, I’m a bit of a dick too. Lesson #1, sleep is key.
Appreciate the everyday It’s a cliche, but how many times have we become so engrossed in life that we have forgotten to actually appreciate it? Our children notice the little things. They notice the funny spider in the bath, they notice the magic orange leaves that have fallen off the trees, the pattern of the waves as they stand on the beach. The everyday is magical to them, it’s new and inspiring, whilst to us it is simply the mundane. Cliche again, but we won’t be here forever, and it is the little things like those that we will wish we had appreciated just that little bit more in years to come.
Don’t be a follower Babies have very little desire to follow the crowd – they don’t have to. They are not influenced by societal pressure, by the need to fit in or to be ‘normal’, if they want to play with the dolls while every other child plays with the cars, then damn right they will. Babies are led solely on what they desire and what they want at that moment in time, and that is something we very rarely live by when we get older. We find ourselves falling into the trap of what we are expected to do, what we are expected to be, and in doing so we lose a little piece of ourselves while we try to gain that bit of everyone else. Follow the example of your toddler and be yourself.
Every day is a fresh start Point number seven is the one that I will be putting into practice as much as I can. I hold grudges. I am the worst – if I start a week badly, I often end the week much in the same way. My baby had a very bad night last night: his first tooth is cutting, he’s not coping well (and neither am I) and he’s sleeping very little. He screamed for four hours on end, not comforted by a bottle, by a cuddle or by the promise of toys. He just wanted to cry – by the morning, all was forgotten. The distress was something of the past, he moves on with the day as a clean slate. I want to do the same. We have 365 days of the year, which is 365 opportunities to do something amazing with your day. (Actually, 364 – 25th December is spent wallowing in a pigs and blankets food coma and nothing productive can come of that).
As parents, we are the teachers. We are in part (in most) responsible for the individuals our children become. I went in to motherhood with my words of wisdom at the ready, but little did I know my toddler would teach me more life lessons than I have taught him. Whether it be as cliche as waking up with a smile or losing the grudges, or as simple as getting an extra hour or two of sleep per night, I can learn a lot from the toddler grappling about at my ankles. I’ve taught him how to wave goodbye, how to clap his hands and how to blow raspberries, which in comparison to what he’s taught me, are all a little bit lack lustre. Looks like I’m going to have to step up with my words of wisdom…