When my wife was pregnant, I was often imagining myself teaching my son this or that. I wanted to talk to him about so many things. Maybe a part of me is a teacher. But, irony of life, I have learned so much from him that I am sometimes wondering if I am not the one who learned the most out of us two. Invaluable life lessons.
1. Don't Judge Your Parents Too Harshly
The first lesson I learned is, irony again, more intended to children. When I was a kid/teenager, I was quick to think: "if I have children one day, I would do this better" or "that was uncalled for, I will be a better dad" or "at least, if I am a dad, I will not do that"... And there I am, a dad. Am I better than my parents? Hell, no. They were more active, more patient, would spend more time with me, would spend more money for me... They would not check their mails or facebook page every 5 minutes, they would not read comic books or play online games... So, please, don't judge your parents too harshly because one day, you may become one yourself. And this day may come earlier than you think.
2. Life Change
As many guys (it may be easier for women), I was quite scared too when my wife was pregnant. One of the selfish fear was that my life would change and that I would not have the possibility to live my life the way I wanted anymore. And, just for the record, one of my other fear was to change diapers...
Well, I can say with relief that this is not the way it is. Yes, my life changed after I became a father but I still live my life the way I want. I simply don't want the same things. What I want now is based on my son (want some time with him, want him to get proper food, does not want him to be too tired, ...). For example, I still travel a lot, as travelling is a part of my life. The only difference is that I take it easier, get food more often (every now and then) and go back to the hotel earlier. And this is not just because I have a son. This is because it is what I want for my son. And well, changing diapers is not a big deal, really.
3. Try and Try Again
Something else I have learned is that adults tend to judge too quickly or get demotivated too early. Imagine you tried a fruit once in your life and did not like it. Would you try it a second time with a compeltely positive attitude? My son has no problems trying twice or three times the same food, even during the same meal. Did not like it the first time? No problem, try it again. No improvement? try it a third time. This can be seen as stupid ("can't you remember you don't like this?") but in my opinion, children are the ones that are right. Don't judge on the first impression. Don't allow things to let you down after the first failure. Try and try again with the same positive attitude. Do you think you were able to walk on your first try? Do you think that was stupid to try again? And again and again? Well, this is this determination that is lacking in most adults and is so clearly present in most children. We would probably be more successful and more open-minded if we did not resign after the first failure or did not judge on the first impression.
4. Understanding Better than You Think
Something amazing about children is their ability of understanding people, situations or objects before even learning the language. One of my biggest surprise was once, before he was 2, he had a "bad time". Not as happy as usual, not eating as good as usual, and I had really no idea what the reason was.
After that, my wife admitted she had some personal issues. She had not told me. She had not told my son (he was not able to speak yet anyway). But my son had guessed it. He knew something was wrong. He could understand it without even a word. Also, generally speaking, he can sense when we are scared of something (vaccine, blood sample, ...), when we are angry (and not necessarily because we tell him), when we are sad, ... So for parents, don't underestimate what children can understand.
5. Guilt Feeling
I knew that when parents divorce, children often think it is their fault (which isn't, in most cases). However, even for less dramatic events I was able to witness this feeling of guilt for things that were not the fault of my child. Once I was changing his diaper and ran off of new ones (smart not to check it before removing the old one...). So I just went to fetch a new bag of diapers and when I came back to my son he had peed on the floor. I can clearly remember the look in his eyes, as if he had commited a crime. This was just a natural need, and it was clearly my fault if he did not have a diaper on him. Children are so vulnerable in this area... adults, especially their parents should be careful about it and reassure them when something happened which is not their fault.
6. Fun Is Fun
You have probably noticed it but children like to play together, especially when they are about the same age. They ccan simply run together, run one after the other, run in circles, ... They don't need rules to play a game. They don't need a winner or a loser to have fun. It is as if we, adults, just wanted to spoil the fun by always having detailed rules, by having a winner, ... Why this need?
Also, even if we adults feel the urge to make gifts/presents for children, they don't need toys to have fun, especially when they are little. I do feel sorry for the parents that feel guilty not to be able to buy their children as many gifts as they think their children deserve because actually children don't need thise gifts/presents. What children really want is the presence of other people. Go run with your kid(s) outside, just play with a standard pen and paper (even if the paper is not blank). As long as they have you to take care of them, that pay attention to them, as long as they have something to do, they will be happy (especially for small children). My son can play with umbrellas, empty bottles, opening all the cd/dvd boxes, taking out all the books from the shelves... This makes him happy. And just in case you want to make a gift/present to a small child and are lacking inspiration, here is an article I wrote with what toys he likes best.
7. Needs for Explanations
Something that surprised me too is that even in this early stage, even if he does not understand precisely what I am saying, my son will always listen to me more happily if I give him the reasons for it. If I ask him to do (or not to do) something, even raising my voice is sometimes useless.
If I take the time to tell him why (this is dangerous) or what for (this vaccine is to protect you from illness, you have to brush your teeth because otherwise, they will hurt)... Maybe he does not fully understand the reason but at least he sees that I am making the effort to explain him.
And this is true for adults too. We are so much happier to follow rules if we understand why or accept a denial if we know the reason.
And so Much More...
There is so much more you can learn from your kids. Another writer at Infobarrel was also telling us what she learned from her kids. The article is full of love and emotion and I highly recommend it. For my part, I will simply finish with a small story that happened to me recently. My son is 2 and a half-year old now and I did not want him to sleep with his mom anymore. I told him: "you are a big boy now, you should be able to sleep alone". He replied: "you are big too, why don't you sleep alone?".