When I became a bonus mom almost three years ago now, I never imagined how much the experience would shape me. As a nanny and teacher for almost ten years prior to meeting my boyfriend and his son, I knew the impact of children on my life. I knew how much they shaped my thinking, my perspective, and my heart. But the lessons from children, and my child in particular, have shifted everything I know to be true.
Children show you what love and what healing really is. If you’re a parent, teacher, or around kids often — you know what I mean. As much as you influence them, they influence you. And as scary as that is, it’s beautiful, too.
Here are the lessons from children (especially on the topic of healing) that I’ve learned so far:
1. Sharing is caring
I wouldn’t call myself a selfish person, but children remove any ounce of selfishness you have. When they come into your life, you suddenly make room. You’re willing to give the last slice of pizza, the last sip of lemonade, the last of your favorite granola bars from the box. You’re willing, unconsciously, to give all of yourself — your mind, body, and soul — just to see them smile.
2. “I’m sorry” carries weight.
One of the most powerful lessons from children that I’ve learned is the value of “I’m sorry.” As adults, we grow into habits and patterns. We become stubborn in our thinking and argumentative when it comes to getting our way. We forget, as we get older, the importance of humbling ourselves (especially to our kids). We teach our children to ask for forgiveness from us when they do wrong — but they teach us the value of saying sorry when we mess up, too. And that’s, perhaps, one of the greatest things we can learn.
3. A good cry is necessary sometimes.
Children come with openness and vulnerability. They are not afraid to let their emotions out. They teach us, consciously and unconsciously, that it’s okay to feel pain and weakness. That it’s okay to not be okay all the time — especially when it hurts.
4. It’s okay to be angry.
As we grow, we learn to bottle our emotions. We learn that strength looks like holding everything inside and putting up a facade or mask for the world. But that’s not true strength. And somehow, children know that. Somehow, children teach us that it’s okay to have emotions — and to put them into the universe unapologetically.
5. Hugs and snuggles are important.
When you’re around a child, you learn the value of hugs. You learn how much it means to have someone’s arm around you, or to fall into another’s embrace. Many times, my boyfriend’s son will hug me when I’m in the middle of something. I’ll be brushing my teeth and half-choke on the toothpaste as he squeezes my middle, or almost drop the hot pan of food as I’m taking it out of the oven. These hugs, though – I’ve learned to cherish them. Human contact is important, even if it’s ‘annoying’ sometimes.
6. Moving forward is brave.
If you watch children, they are quick to get back on the skateboard after they scrape their knee. Quick to let a friend back into the group, even after a fight. There’s something inherent within young people to simply shake things off and move forward. I think, as adults, we have so much to learn from that strength.
7. “I love yous” shouldn’t be held back.
I’m scared that one day Austin will stop his random, ‘I love yous.’ I’m sure this might happen with age and adolescence, but right now I cherish the sound of his little voice when he interrupts me mid-conversation, or when I tuck him into bed. There’s something so pure about a child’s ‘I love you’ and the way it makes you stop everything you’re doing to say it back. As adults, we often grow comfortable in our relationships. Saying those three words loses the weight it once had because we’re just so set in our routines and expectations. But to our children, these words matter. And in the exchange, we grow so much closer.
8. Tomorrow is a new day.
There are many lessons from children to learn, but this is perhaps the most significant for me. Over the past few years, I’ve watched Austin move to two different schools, battle the obstacles of making new friends, struggle in school, and miss his bio mom. I’ve watched him experience emotions that most nine and ten-year-olds don’t have to face. But in each of the painful moments, he’s found strength. He’s continued, he’s brushed off others, and he’s found a reason to keep going.
Although I’ve taught him to focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t, he’s taught me that tomorrow is new. He’s brought out the strength within me that I didn’t know I had. Perhaps, we strengthen each other. And perhaps that’s what children teach us most of all — that it’s okay to need people. Growth isn’t meant to happen alone.
Featured Image Credit: Steven Depolo