When Our Kids Are Our Best Teachers
I never quite understood what it meant when someone said, “You’re so extra.” Extra what? Special? Fabulous? Annoying? It could mean almost anything!
And then I started noticing this adorable and, frankly, fantastic thing about my kids. They accessorize in a big way. They’re both in preschool, and I still choose their outfits most days. Then, they put on the finishing touches. My son might grab a fedora, an umbrella, a tie, and a purse. Side note, we don’t care about gender conforming in this intersectional feminist household, nor do we read anything into these choices. My daughter might layer on 4 necklaces from a box of costume jewelry, choose a headband to put in her hair along with the bows I already put in, and select a pair of big sunglasses.
At any given moment, they’ll swap accessories or do a quick wardrobe change. They even include me in it. My son likes to share his hats with me, squashing them on my head. My daughter thinks I should always be wearing a tiara. It’s true: I am the queen of this particular castle. It was like a light bulb went off: they are so extra!
I love it! Not only is it the cutest thing and makes absolutely everyone they encounter give the biggest grin, it shows so much creativity and personality. They know what they like, and they are unequivocal with it. They aren’t worried about color coordination or fitting into the crowd. They have zero concern with what someone else is going to say. In fact, they automatically assume that because they love it, everyone else will, too. If other people don’t love their look, they don’t care at all. It’s beautiful.
It got me thinking that there are so many things we can learn from our children. I look at my children, dressed to the nines, and then look at myself and think that I could stand to be a little more extra myself. There are days that I do wear my son’s hat out of the house or keep the crown on that my daughter put on my head as I shop for groceries. But most days, I don’t go all out on how I look. I’m so busy doing the parenting thing that I can forget that how I look matters, too, and there’s nothing wrong with adding a few fun accessories to my outfit.
Lessons from Our Children
But it’s more than accessorizing that I learn from them. I can take a page from their book of not caring what other people think of my life. I can assume that others are happy as long as I’m happy, and if they’re not, I have no obligation to care about that. I can be unequivocal in stating what is for me and what’s not for me. I can live from my highest purpose and deepest desires rather than just leading with the endless task list of parenting. While cleaning and childcare are just basics that have to be done, I can make sure that I’m not losing my passions inside a to-do list.
Our children still have all of that pure, unadulterated joy. Most of them are highly imaginative with a genuine interest in the world around them. How many of us can say the same about ourselves or the people in our lives? Could we be described the same way? Every day, they wake up and see the world with interested eyes. They see adventure and opportunity everywhere, something that many adults are unable to do. Even the smallest treat can bring them gladness, and a little quality time goes a long way.
They love their friends passionately with fierce loyalty. My daughter makes friends wherever she goes, and she always tells them goodbye, best friends when we leave. It seems as adults few of us befriend everyone we meet, bonding with others as we go about our daily lives. Our kids can see every new person as a potential friend, but we can often see them as a new person to deal with, an obstacle to getting where we’re going, or an annoyance along the way.
Teaching Goes Both Ways
Then there’s the natural emotional intelligence that kids seem to have — before we teach them there’s something wrong with it. When they feel physical or emotional pain, they cry. When they are angry or frustrated, they let us know. While they’re unable to regulate their emotions well, they have little problem expressing them. They don’t pretend to be fine to spare other people the discomfort of their emotions. They don’t hide their tears or feel ashamed to cry — not unless we make them feel that way. They feel, and they show it. We should try to do the same.
Our kids are learning every day, but if we’re open to it, they can teach us every day, too. We can learn from their joy, their creativity, their exuberance and enthusiasm for life, and even how they express their emotions without shame. We can learn to be friendly and make friends wherever we go, and to be just a little more extra than we might normally be.
After all, our kids understand that life is supposed to be filled with joy. If we learn only that, think how much happier the world could be!
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