As I was sitting in church this Sunday morning I looked over at my wonderful ten month old baby daughter who was sleeping soundly in her car seat, completely oblivious to the music and singing all around her. It was at that moment that I was inspired to write this post about the lessons that my children are trying to teach me right now. My wife and I have six children together in six very different stages of life. As a long-time Stay At Home Dad (and former teacher) I’m usually the one teaching my kids about life while my wife is busy bringing home the bacon. But I realized that, if I’m paying attention, each of my six kids are trying to teach me life lessons if I’m paying attention.
1. Follow your heart and chase your dreams. My oldest daughter is 19 and moved out two days after graduating high school last June. She’s a beautiful and talented musician who is not attending college right now. Instead, she’s working three jobs, volunteering at her church and living life on her terms. She has a heart for missions and music and recently was accepted to a school in Australia for next year. She’s teaching me that it’s okay to do things out of the ordinary…because they just might lead to something extraordinary (like school in Australia!). I’m so proud of her.
2. Challenge yourself mentally and physically. My second daughter is 14 and a freshman in high school. She is a hard-working student and is doing her best to earn a 4.0 for the entire year. She is doing that on top of participating in two seasons of high school sports and honor society and the required service hours each semester. I really admire her dedication to academic excellence and her sports teams. She wasn’t particularly interested in team sports as a younger child (although she did excel on swim team) so it was a bit of a surprise when she decided to be on both the swim team in the fall semester and water polo team in the spring semester. While she’s not a superstar at either sport she has shown grit in doing whatever the coach has asked of her even when not being rewarded with much playing time in games. She’s determined and improving every day.
In just one year she’s participated in more high school sports than I did in all four years of my high school experience. Well done!
3. Have a sense of humor and creativity in every day life. My third daughter is 12 and in sixth grade. While it can be a tad taxing at times to deal with her humor and creativity I have to admit that she’s pretty clever. Besides, I think it’s from me. She helps me to see that life is more enjoyable when you laugh a bit and think a bit outside of the box. Last year she designed and made a small chicken coop to house a couple of baby chicks. On her own. My only help was supervision of her use of the electric saw. Her love of pranks is evidenced every April first and many other times throughout the year.If I’m stuck with something or need a different way to look at a problem I can talk to her and she often thinks of solutions that blow my mind. Just the other day she saw a bag from my wife’s recent shopping trip and exclaimed how cool it was for stores to have a “time-you-bought-it bag”. She didn’t believe me that the name of the store was actually Tuesday Morning. I love the way she thinks.
4. It’s okay to get messy and dirty. My favorite son is 9 and in fourth grade. Need I say more? Those of you with boys will understand in ways that those with only girls probably won’t. I didn’t believe it myself until he came along just how different boys and girls are. While my daughters had instances where they got messy or dirty he has taken it to a new level. He loves to be outside, rain or shine. And that’s a good thing because we live in Washington state, where today we had, at various times, sunshine, pouring rain and pellet-sized hail. He’s the one who “discovered” that his leg would sink almost to his knee in the wet and muddy corner of the yard. There have been multiple instances of him coming to the back door in various states of undress because he’s covered in mud and needs to go straight to the shower. It’s okay because it makes him happy and it washes off just fine. With him every day is “Earth Day” in my kitchen
5. Jump into life with complete abandon. My fourth daughter is 3, going on 13. She is currently in the throes of the “princess” stage that each of my older girls went through at about the same age. Almost every day involves some sort of dress-up and sometimes even a tiara or wand. Or a baby named “Peanut Butter”. Whenever my son has a friend over this is the daughter who gushes about how handsome that friend is and how she’s going to marry him some day. I suppose that really does fit the mindset of a Disney princess not named Elsa from Frozen. But I digress. She’s a bundle of energy and enthusiasm for life and trying all sorts of new things. Right away. I guess I really noticed it this morning when I asked her to come give me a hug. She turned and ran toward me (I was sitting on the sofa). She launched herself at me from about two feet away, landing a perfect flying hug in the process. Thankfully, I was able to catch her and wrap her up in a hug.
6. Life is simple. Sleep. Eat. Fill your pants. Play. Laugh. Snuggle. And repeat. My fifth daughter is 10 months and busy exploring her ever-increasing world. While it’s my job to meet her needs every day she is quickly becoming her own unique person with her own personality and voice. And, based on the many interactions during the service at church, she is becoming quite friendly. I especially treasure our nightly routine of snuggling on the bed so that we can read a few stories together before she goes to sleep. Sometimes life just needs to be more simple.
What are your kids trying to tell you? If you’re like me, it’s easy to make yourself too busy to learn from them. There are loads of distractions, from cell phones, work, cleaning, cooking. etc. But, take time to celebrate your children and whatever stage they’re at in life. Just be present and in the moment. It’s simple, really.