The Gift of Children: 6 Things My Toddler Taught Me About Life

6 Feb, 2018

Kids are awesome, and if we pay close attention, there’s a life lesson around every corner. Grown-ups are awesome as well, but they forgot they are. If you can’t see your own awesomeness anymore, how can someone else? It’s like being able to sing like a bird but never opening your mouth, nobody knows you can sing, not even you.

Just like all kids, my daughter is awesome, as well. A little more awesome as the rest, but that’s because she’s my daughter (although, I still think she is a bit more awesome regardless). The growth of little kids is astounding. Nothing could have prepared me for this. Before I became a father, I thought I would have a drooling baby on my chest for three years. But, with just two years under her belt, my daughter is already making plans to rule the world, she’s already ruling family life, so why the hell not.

Pure souls

In the tremendous growth of children, parents play an essential role. But, in these quick two years, I’ve realized I learn at least as much from her as she’s learning from me. Throughout my short life, I’ve heard a ton of grownups say that children don’t know anything, they are stupid, don’t know what they’re doing, etc. But I disagree.

Children come into the world with their essence still intact. They are pure souls not yet stained with the rules and conditioning of this world. At first glance, kids look reckless and can irritate the shit out of you, but if you look closer, you’ll see there is much more to it. They are much more at the moment, fully enjoying life. And in the end, isn’t that what life is about? I think it is. So, let’s dive into what my little rascal taught me so far.

#1 Be playful and enjoy the little things

The moment my daughter wakes up (usually around 6 AM), she’s on fire. Enjoying every moment. She enjoys waking up, enjoys walking down the steps, enjoys helping daddy making his morning coffee. She enjoys cleaning out the dishwasher; everything is a party. Just the notion of us going to the supermarket, where she can grab a piece of cheese, makes her excited as if she’s won the lottery.

The thing about being around a kid that’s playful and spontaneous is that it rubs off on you. Instead of being a miserable dude in the morning anxious to get his caffeine fix, I now enjoy the process thoroughly and tag along in her impressive morning routine. While the world is still asleep, I’m jumping in the living room dancing to some kiddy cartoon, and I love it.

The other day I was at the bakery, and the lady behind the counter gave my daughter a little white bun, and she responded with “OH WOW”! The moment was magic. The place was packed, and everybody was speechless. She took the little bun, sat down in her stroller, and enjoyed it with everything she had.

When was the last time you stopped for a moment, just to look around, to enjoy whatever is? When was the last time you were completely in the moment and grateful for a 20 cent white bun?

Lesson: Enjoy everything you do. You have to do it anyway so you might as well enjoy it, all of it. Whenever there’s a chance of being playful and spontaneous, grab it with both hands.

#2 Say what you want

Know that last yummy treat on the plate at a party that lays there for the rest of the night? Everybody knows it’s there, and everybody wants to have it, but nobody has the guts to say they want it. That yumminess usually ends up in the trashcan, wasted, because no one dared to reach for it.

Know that feeling when you are at the deli, and you have your eye on that one sandwich? That one sandwich that looks just a bit nicer than the rest, the Batman sandwich. You point at it, and the deli worker reaches for it. Your heart fills with awe, but the deli worker grabs the one next to it. Now she hands you the retarded version of the sandwich you wanted, the Two-Face sandwich. You’re too embarrassed to say something, so you pay the deli worker and leave. On the one hand, you have the retarded shit sandwich and in the other, your broken pride, because you were too scared to say what you wanted.

I could do this for hours, but I won’t. Anyway, my point is adults never say what they want; they just beat around the bush. Even when you ask them straight up if they want something, they’ll deny it.

Not my daughter. She makes it loud and clear what she wants. And because she’s so genuine and clear in saying it, she gets away with it. For example, when I and the misses tuck her in bed, sometimes she gives me a push and says, “go”, that’s my cue to leave.

Lesson: If you want something, say it. People can’t smell what you want, and if you don’t ask, the answer is always no. How’s that for a life lesson?

#3 Express your emotions fully but don’t dwell on them

Emotions are like shit. If you keep them in, you get constipated. If you keep it in long enough, you’ll explode. Ok, maybe you won’t explode, but you just turn into a bitter, unpleasant, hateful person. One of those people that lived in those scary houses you and your childhood buddies always avoided like the plague. That neighbor that would stab your ball if it fell over the fence. I’d rather explode.

Turning into that constipated person doesn’t happen overnight, you slowly fade into it. Every time you don’t express yourself, or when you keep the argument inside and take it everywhere like luggage, the fade gets a little deeper. Every time you hold the emotion in, while it’s fighting to get out, you turn a little into that horrible neighbor just waiting to get his hands on the ball. I believe emotions not expressed eventually become deceases, but that’s another story.

It amazes me how one moment me and my daughter are best friends, and then ten seconds later, she’s so furious she wants to bash in my head with her pacifier. While I’m thinking in my head, if we can ever have a relationship again, she is already happy again. Hugs and kisses, daddy, what’s done is done. It’s in the past. Let’s enjoy and appreciate each other right here in the now. If adults did this, there would be world peace by the end of the week.

Lesson: When you feel emotion, express yourself fully and leave it in that moment. What’s done is done. Don’t hold that shit in and get emotionally constipated. Hugs and kisses are optional, but a mutual understanding works just as well.

#4 Be kind to people

I don’t care who you are, where you are, what you are doing, or what you’re going through when a little child smiles at you in a genuine way you will smile back, and it will make you a bit happier. My daughter says, “hi!” to everyone. You can ignore her, but she is persistent. Eventually, you will give in. 95% of the non-responders eventually respond; they just didn’t notice the first time. Most people are picked up, even if it’s only for a moment, from their sorrows of the day and light up with joy and enthusiasm.

My daughter also shares everything. Even if she just has one cookie, I can have it. Can you imagine giving away your last cookie? That’s hard, man, cookies are life. I shouldn’t accept it, but I have to, even if I don’t want it because sharing is a two-way street. The receiver feels happy and acknowledged because someone wants to give them something, and the giver feels happy because he can contribute.

Lesson: Everybody wants to connect; some people are just so deep in sorrow; they are totally disconnected. Smile to people and greet them, it really helps.  If they don’t smile back, smile harder. These people need it the most. If that doesn’t help, give them a cookie (but not your last one). Smiling is also good for yourself. Try it now. You’ll notice you’ll feel instantly happier.

#5 Sleep when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry

There’s a couple of simple, but very vital aspects of life most adults do wrong. Two of those are sleeping and eating. How often does it happen that we wake up in the morning feeling tired and tell ourselves we will go to bed early, only to catch us binge-watching Netflix or having fun with friends till 1 AM? If this happens occasionally, then it’s not a problem, but for most people, this is a continuous cycle. Sleeping is the greatest medicine in the world, yet we suck at it.

Our eating habits are also not on point. Many people skip meals, go on a fast-food crave just before bed, or forget to eat entirely because they are so unaware.

Not my daughter. She literally falls asleep anytime, anyplace, anywhere. This is the ultimate form of being in touch with yourself. It’s like saying, “I don’t care where I am, or what’s going on, my body wants to sleep now, and so I honor myself by doing so”.

The same goes for eating. She eats when she’s hungry and stops when she’s had enough. No waiting till after a meeting, or eating so much she will explode. Just enough at the right time. So freakishly simple, but adults suck at it.

Lesson: Sleep when you are tired and eat when you are hungry. Very simple, but an essential life lesson.

#6 Everything is negotiable

Lesson one for salespeople is that ‘no’ simply means ‘not yet’. Adult people have to learn this, my daughter knows. I’m amazed out how easily my daughter can persuade me into saying “yes”. I don’t convert to ‘yes’ because she annoys the hell out of me, but because my ‘no’ isn’t based on anything logical. It’s usually based on my mood and needs. By her being persistent, I realize I shouldn’t be a dick and man up. She reminds me that I should be doing what I should be doing. It isn’t even a negotiation, it’s just being persistent, that’s what she does, and it works.

But for me, as a parent, persistence doesn’t work, so I have to level up. I have to negotiate on Champion’s League level. Negotiating at this point in time is still easy because leverage is cheap. But, the first problem with negotiating is that I have to go bigger every time. In the beginning, a handful of raisins would cut it, but now I’m already offering cake and zoo trips. If it keeps going like this, I’ll have to buy Nike Air Max just to get her to come to the supermarket.

I still have to figure out how to go from here, since I’m not buying Nikes for a 5-year-old so that I can get a pack of milk at the store. The other problem is my daughter knows I will try to bribe her, so now she always plays hardball. It’s like buying toothpaste in an Arabic country.

Lesson: If you want something, make sure there’s something in for it for the other as well. After a certain age, candy doesn’t cut it, but you can always try closing that million dollar deal with a KitKat.

#7 Fuck the rules

The headline of this post reads ‘6 things my…’ and this is #7 already. So what, fuck the rules. Anyway, that’s how my daughter rolls, and she’s right. If I say do this, she does it a little different, when I say do that, she also does it entirely differently. And why the hell not? It doesn’t matter.

In the beginning, I could get irritated because of it, but that was just my rigid way of thinking. When rule #7 is broken, it’s usually because rule #1 is put in place, and I’m all for rule #1. I try to guide the direction, and she has to find her way. It made me realize rules are to keep things as they are, and that’s no fun. Fun and innovation happen outside the rules.

Lesson: Get off the beaten path and find your way. That’s where the fun and the big wins are. It helps to put rule #1 in place.

Bonus life lesson: your inner child needs you

My daughter has been the greatest gift in the world for me. Yes, my life is upside down, and there’s basically nothing left from my old life, but that’s perfectly fine. Every day is a gift, but the most significant gift of all is the realization that there is a little kid in me as well, that needs room and attention to blossom.

We all have a little kid in ourselves. What does your inner kid need? If you call bullshit and say there’s no inner kid in you, then there’s one thing it needs for now, and that is attention. If you listen carefully, you will hear it talking to you. And if you’re still clueless, here are some keywords to get the ball rolling:

Be playful, spontaneous, open-minded. Be creative and spend time with yourself. This is not about being childish, but about being childlike. You will be more connected with who you really are, and life becomes so much more fun.

So, once again, children are awesome, and so are you. Find your inner awesomeness and inspire the people around you that lost their awesomeness as well. Imagine how awesome the world would be if everyone were completely in line with their childlike awesomeness.

Photo credit: Artem Beliaikin