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7 Life Lessons I Learned From My Son

7 Life Lessons I Learned From My Son

As much as I would like to think that I am a great shining influence on my son, imparting golden nuggets of sage-like wisdom from high atop my throne of adulthood and responsibility, I realize something every day; that little guy already knows way more about life and living than I could ever teach him.

Sure, he is full of all kinds of beautiful nonsense. He has an encyclopedia-like knowledge of the entire Pokemon universe, and he has decided that every car ride we take is a perfect opportunity to explain to me the nuances of that world. He can regurgitate an endless stream of Minecraft facts with such gravitas and sincerity that he sounds like he is reciting holy scriptures and ancient commandments. He is a normal kid in those ways. Children are mostly filled with useless crap that means the world to them, but doesn’t matter to the grand scheme of things, and they like to take every opportunity they can to tell everyone they meet about it.

Yet, every so often, if you are really paying attention, children are freaking brilliant! I mean, yogi-zen-sage-jedi brilliant! They say and do some shit that adults have no idea you can say or do and I love that part of being a parent; the fact that I get to learn as much as I teach. Parents and children are in a symbiotic relationship, just like any other, where we make each other better or worse based upon the things we see the other do and say. It’s a reciprocity of lessons, and if we take the time to pay attention, and filter through the crap, there is a lot we can learn. This is what I have learned so far:

Every rainy day is a good excuse to splash in some puddles.

Never be so tightly tied to a plan that, if it doesn’t go your way, it is the end of the world. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is going to stop the universe from conspiring to throw you some curve balls. Instead of cursing your luck, use it as an excuse to get messy and have some fun!

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I am a control freak. A planner. I hate when plans change or when something derails my plans. I plan to go to the zoo. I have exhibit maps, timetables, concession stand funds allocated, line length calculators memorized. I have this shit optimized. I have the freaking migratory patterns of the zoo crowds mapped out so that we can hit every exhibit without a crowd. I have committed to NASA-space-shuttle-launch amounts of preparation. And… then it rains. Of course. I throw a shit fit and my son just shrugs and says , “Ah well.” He doesn’t know or care about all the planning I did and all the hard work I put into making this zoo trip absolutely epic and mind blowing. He was able to forget about the zoo as soon as the rain came. He just wanted to splash in some puddles.

He didn’t tie everything into the zoo trip and therefore, when that plan was derailed by circumstances beyond our control, he saw another instant opportunity for some fun in something he didn’t even expect. His mind was free to just go with whatever came up. The time you spend cursing your bad luck because something out of your control happens could be time you spend splashing in the rain puddles of life and kicking up a storm of impromptu fun you never expected. As a general point of fact, non-metaphorical splashing in puddles is literal fun as well. You need to go do that!

There is no race, religion, political affiliation, gender, sexual orientation or other stereotypes. There are only people who are nice and people who are mean.

The only thing my son sees about people is their propensity for certain actions. He does not give a damn what race, what religion, what sexual orientation, whatever anyone is. All he sees is people who are mean to him and people who are nice to him, because people really have no more powerful identity in this world aside from that. He does not judge, he does not ridicule, he does not care. All he wants is someone willing to watch him play Minecraft and listen to his never ending diatribe of monsters you can kill and things you can build. If you do that, you are nice and you rate highly in his book.

Judgment is an adult disease, contracted in our teenage years, that typically spreads as we get older. It erodes our ability to see events and people clearly and to remember that each individual should be taken on their own merit of ability and action to be good or bad. I can not believe this lesson still has to be learned in this day and age and that children are the primary ones teaching it.

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Everyone is a friend. Unless they are mean.

This is related to the lesson above. As an adult my human radar is always set on paranoid mode. I am skeptical of people’s intentions and keep them a safe distance away so they can’t peek behind the curtain and see the crazy man running the show in my head. Children’s human radar, on the other hand, is always set to acceptance mode. They think everyone is worth getting to know and could be called a friend. As long as they aren’t mean, of course.

Kids are just not as jaded and cynical and mistrusting and they approach people in a way that gives them the benefit of the doubt. It usually makes their interactions with others more open, honest, raw and enjoyable. Now, I am not saying there are not bad people in the world. There are plenty. Be vigilant of them, but don’t assume the worst of everyone. It’s like never approaching any dog you see because you think you might get bit by one. Yes. Some dogs bite, but I would rather get bit by one bad dog than give up the joy of petting every crazy, fluffy, slobbering monster I meet!

The toys I paid a lot for, that are just for him, are never as fun as the cheap ones he can play with everyone.

Quality time is a valuable commodity these days. We have thought to replace the acts of simple togetherness with the constant, proximal isolation of technology, but if you look at most children, and you watch how they play, it will get you thinking.

It is usually the silly thing that they made up, but can all do together, that is the most enjoyable thing for them. They don’t care how much something cost, how well it is designed, the replayability. They only care if they can all be involved and all have fun, because they know that doing stupid stuff with a bunch of people is a lot more fun than doing stupid stuff by yourself. I don’t need to spend so much of my money or time on things or experiences that cost a lot and only I value. The things and experiences I spend my money or time on can be cheap, but made priceless, if the value is shared with the people I care about.

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Sometimes, you have to have dessert before dinner.

Because, stuff the rules! You can’t just go through life following all the rules and expect to have enough fun to satisfy your soul. Sometimes, you just have to say screw it and do something totally crazy, like having dessert before dinner. I just want to be clear that, I am in no way sanctioning dessert before lunch or breakfast. That is not cool under any circumstances. Although… breakfast dessert does sound pretty awesome…

Anyway, some rules are arbitrary and we only think of them as rules because somebody else told us to think of them that way. If you can look at all the things you do and ask yourself why you really do them, you are going to find some really arbitrary reasons for doing some stuff that you really don’t have to or want to do. Learn to break some rules and have fun with it. Just because it has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it that way.

A hug fixes everything.

I wish that hugs were a recognized currency among adults. I wish that I could hug my boss when I mess up at work. I wish that I could hug the lady at the DMV – who is so annoyed by a simple question that her face turns red and the vein above her eye starts bulging. Hugs make almost any sadness or anger or pain or wrongdoing smaller, because there is just no way you can hold on to it while you’re arms are filled with someone else. Physical contact of any kind is a mood stabilizer and antidepressant. Spread that medicine around, and get closer to the people you care about and who need you.

Why and how are the greatest questions there are.

Why can’t I go play outside? Uh, because there is a tornado warning and we are all going to stay in the basement and constantly refresh every weather app we have to make sure we are safe. But why? Because tornadoes are dangerous and they can seriously hurt people. How? They hurt people by moving at really high speeds and destroying everything in their path. Why? Because that’s just what they do! I don’t know why! Do I look like damn meteorologist?! Go play outside!

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Kids want to soak up as much as they can about everything. The world is a place to be discovered; to be questioned and probed and understood. How and why are two incredible questions that can foster a lifetime of learning. I secretly love when my son asks me how and why, because it forces me to think deeply about things that I always just take for granted and rarely consider. If I can’t answer a question that he has on his mind, I typically go find an answer, because every excuse is a good excuse for learning something new and learning new things is what life is all about. Why is life all about learning new things? Because I said so!

The most important lesson of all.

My son has taught me a lot and I am grateful for that. He has also taught me a bunch of useless junk that sometimes spills out when I am talking to adults, but the good of his lessons always outweighs the bad. And of course, I have passed on valuable lessons to him that he will not appreciate until he is old and wise like me, just as I did to my mother. Aside from these lessons we have shared, I also realize something else that I really need to give him. Something that my mother gave to me, and something that every parent should give to their child.

I need to give him the ability to hold on to all his brilliant plans, ideas, questions, lessons and knowledge before the world strips it all away and replaces it with the standard, stock, work-till-you-die and do-as-you’re-told, just-make-it-through mentality that tends to settle in when you are not paying attention. The best gift I can give that boy is an open ear for all his crazy ramblings, an open mind to understand the genius of them, and an open heart to help him follow through with them. No matter what other lessons we share, this one is the one that will make the most lasting difference on his life and the one that should always be passed down.

Featured photo credit: Brookie via commons.wikimedia.org

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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