For the past couple of months, I’ve been living with a one year old. The first time we met was during month two and three of his life, and since he lives too far away (*sigh*) to allow for frequent visits, we’ve only managed a reunion now, ten months later.
In my family tree, he fits in the slot “nephew”, but really, terry* readers, he is my guru, my shaykh and my teacher, and I’m sure going to miss that kid when he leaves.
Below are a few of the life lessons I’ve learnt in his presence.
1) Disappointments are to be experienced intensely, mourned briefly, and then forgotten. Failure should not hinder one from trying and trying again.
2) People are fascinating. Seek them out. Be unafraid to start conversations. To smile. To wave hello to your neighbours. Make a habit of constantly expressing your delight that you are in the company of others, and the recipient of their attention.
3) Relish solitude. You need time every day to wander, to think, to explore and simply figure things out. To try new things. Protest fiercely when others encroach on this time.
4) Make amends quickly. When you keep others up at night or leave them exhausted during the day, make sure you make up for it with a contrite smile and a heart softening cuddle. Have a sunshiny disposition that makes it impossible to remain irritated with you.
5) The world is your playground, discover it actively. In every situation, there are things to be explored and learnt, touched and tasted. Have a healthy sense of curiosity about your surroundings. Be a scientist in the world. Experiment, challenge, test, test again, revise your assumptions, store that knowledge away, and repeat this process continuously.
6) Be heard. If you have an opinion, share it. If you aren’t understood at first, persist until you’ve conveyed your point of view. Learn new languages to speak to ever widening circles of people.
7) Seek support and comfort from those around you. When you fall and stumble, touch base to feel better, and then return to your adventure-seeking, knowledge-desiring, happy state.
8 Embrace your inner artist. Express yourself, and don’t let limitations of ability and skill deter you from enjoying colours and textures and different art forms.
9) Savour tastes and smells and textures. Enjoy each morsel. Chew slowly. Explore new foods. Try what others are having. Chase after new experiences.
10) Wake up completely thrilled about the day ahead. Stand up, laugh, and become excited and energised about the big adventures that await you. Nap when needed.
11) Touch the world, and be in touch with nature. Splash in water. Watch birds. Stop and say hello to puppies. Jump on grass. Stare at trees. Be conscious of the fact that the world is awesome, and spend some time every day marveling at its wonders. Don’t let a day go by without some time outdoors.
12) Don’t hold grudges. When someone trips over you, or makes a mistake, have a good cry, but don’t let bad experiences or moments impact your trust of others as a whole.
13) Laugh heartily. Laugh often.
14) Seek new goals constantly. Be hungry to learn and grow and develop. Be persistent. Spend lots of time with others who are more skilled than you-it creates an environment where you are naturally constantly trying to stretch and increase your abilities.
15) Assert your independence. Don’t let others do things for you too often. Push people away who prevent you from learning.
16) When you make a mess, clean it up.
17) Dance when music plays. In fact, make time for movement every day. After spending any length of time being stationary, or eating large amounts of food, race around, climb things, and revel in your ability to move and reach and run and stand.
And lastly…be confident. Babies have personalities. They come into the world with their own idiosyncrasies and habits and little quirks, and when you hear mothers talk about their children, they speak about the things that he/she likes and doesn’t like, prefers and doesn’t prefer, and what their habits tend to be. And yet, a year earlier, the little person didn’t exist. Obviously I’m not the first writer to reflect on the miracle of birth, but it is something to keep in mind as we strive for things and get discouraged and get disappointed at times: that perhaps the simple fact we exist, that we come into the world with such a definite sense of self, means that one must chase and seek and find meaning. We are too astonishing to not seize the day, to not make what we can of our lives and experiences, and to not reach out to others and create social change.