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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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Published on May 4, 2021

How To Spot Fake People (And Ways To Deal With Them)

How To Spot Fake People (And Ways To Deal With Them)

They say we are the average of the five persons we spend the most time with. For a minute, consider the people around you. Are they truly who your “tribe” should be or who you aspire to become in the future? Are they really genuine people who want to see you succeed? Or are they fake people who don’t really want to see you happy?

In this article, I’ll review why it is important to surround yourself with genuine individuals—the ones who care, bring something to our table, and first and foremost, who leave all fakeness behind.

How to Spot Fake People?

When you’ve been working in the helping professions for a while, spotting fake people gets a bit easier. There are some very clear signs that the person you are looking at is hiding something, acting somehow, or simply wanting to get somewhere. Most often, there is a secondary gain—perhaps attention, sympathy, or even a promotion.

Whatever it is, you’re better off working their true agenda and staying the hell away. Here are some things you should look out for to help spot fake people.

1. Full of Themselves

Fake people like to show off. They love looking at themselves in the mirror. They collect photos and videos of every single achievement they had and every part of their body and claim to be the “best at what they do.”

Most of these people are actually not that good in real life. But they act like they are and ensure that they appear better than the next person. The issue for you is that you may find yourself always feeling “beneath” them and irritated at their constant need to be in the spotlight.

2. Murky in Expressing Their Emotions

Have you ever tried having a deep and meaningful conversation with a fake person? It’s almost impossible. It’s because they have limited emotional intelligence and don’t know how they truly feel deep down—and partly because they don’t want to have their true emotions exposed, no matter how normal these might be.

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It’s much harder to say “I’m the best at what I do” while simultaneously sharing “average” emotions with “equal” people.

3. Zero Self-Reflection

To grow, we must accept feedback from others. We must be open to our strengths and to our weaknesses. We must accept that we all come in different shapes and can always improve.

Self-reflection requires us to think, forgive, admit fault, and learn from our mistakes. But to do that, we have to be able to adopt a level of genuineness and depth that fake people don’t routinely have. A fake person generally never apologizes, but when they do, it is often followed with a “but” in the next breath.

4. Unrealistic Perceptions

Fake people most often have an unrealistic perception of the world—things that they want to portray to others (pseudo achievements, materialistic gains, or a made-up sense of happiness) or simply how they genuinely regard life outside themselves.

A lot of fake people hide pain, shame, and other underlying reasons in their behavior. This could explain why they can’t be authentic and/or have difficulties seeing their environment for the way it objectively is (both good and bad).

5. Love Attention

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest sign that something isn’t quite right with someone’s behavior can be established by how much they love attention. Are you being interrupted every time you speak by someone who wants to make sure that the spotlight gets reverted back to them? Is the focus always on them, no matter the topic? If yes, you’re probably dealing with a fake person.

6. People Pleaser

Appreciation feels nice but having everyone like you is even better. While it is completely unrealistic for most people to please everyone all the time, fake people seem to always say yes in pursuit of constant approval.

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Now, this is a problem for two reasons. Firstly, these people are simply saying yes to things for their own satisfaction. Secondly, they often end up changing their minds or retracting their offer for one reason or another (“I would have loved to, but my grandmother suddenly fell ill.”), leaving you in the lurch for the 100th time this year.

7. Sarcasm and Cynicism

Behind the chronic pasted smile, fake people are well known for brewing resentment, jealousy, or anger. This is because, behind the postcard life, they are often unhappy. Sarcasm and cynicism are well known to act as a defense mechanism, sometimes even a diversion—anything so they can remain feeling on top of the world, whether it is through boosting themselves or bringing people down.

8. Crappy friend

Fake people are bad friends. They don’t listen to you, your feelings, and whatever news you might have to share. In fact, you might find yourself migrating away from them when you have exciting or bad news to share, knowing that it will always end up one way—their way. In addition, you might find that they’re not available when you truly need them or worse, cancel plans at the last minute.

It’s not unusual to hear that a fake person talks constantly behind people’s backs. Let’s be honest, if they do it to others, they’re doing it to you too. If your “friend” makes you feel bad constantly, trust me, they’re not achieving their purpose, and they’re simply not a good person to have around.

The sooner you learn to spot these fake people, the sooner you can meet meaningful individuals again.

How to Cope With Fake People Moving Forward?

It is important to remind yourself that you deserve more than what you’re getting. You are worthy, valuable, precious, and just as important as the next person.

There are many ways to manage fake people. Here are some tips on how to deal with them.

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1. Boundaries

Keep your boundaries very clear. As explained in the book Unlock Your Resilience, boundaries are what keep you sane when the world tries to suffocate you. When fake people become emotional vampires, make sure to keep your distances, limit contact, and simply replace them with more valuable interactions.

2. Don’t Take Their Behavior Personally

Sadly, they most likely have behaved this way before they knew you and will continue much longer after you have moved on. It isn’t about you. It is about their inner need to meet a void that you are not responsible for. And in all honesty, unless you are a trained professional, you are unlikely to improve it anyway.

3. Be Upfront and Honest About How You Feel

If your “friend” has been hurtful or engaged in behaviors you struggle with, let them know—nicely, firmly, however you want, but let them know that they are affecting you. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, you’ll feel better and when you’re ready to move on, you’ll know you tried to reach out. Your conscience is clear.

4. Ask for Advice

If you’re unsure about what you’re seeing or feeling, ask for advice. Perhaps a relative, a good friend, or a colleague might have some input as to whether you are overreacting or seeing some genuine concerns.

Now, don’t confuse asking for advice with gossiping behind the fake person’s back because, in the end, you don’t want to stoop down to their level. However, a little reminder as to how to stay on your own wellness track can never hurt.

5. Dig Deeper

Now, this one, I offer with caution. If you are emotionally strong, up to it, guaranteed you won’t get sucked into it, and have the skills to manage, perhaps you could dig into the reasons a fake person is acting the way they do.

Have they suffered recent trauma? Have they been rejected all their lives? Is their self-esteem so low that they must resort to making themselves feel good in any way they can? Sometimes, having an understanding of a person’s behavior can help in processing it.

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6. Practice Self-Care!

Clearly, putting some distance between the fake person and yourself is probably the way to go. However, sometimes, it takes time to get there. In the meantime, make sure to practice self-care, be gentle with yourself, and compensate with lots of positives!

Self-care can be as simple as taking a hot shower after talking to them or declining an invitation when you’re not feeling up to the challenge.

Spotting fake people isn’t too hard. They generally glow with wanna-be vibes. However, most often, there are reasons as to why they are like this. Calling their behavior might be the first step. Providing them with support might be the second. But if these don’t work, it’s time to stay away and surround yourself with the positivity that you deserve.

Final Thoughts

Remember that life is a rollercoaster. It has good moments, tough moments, and moments you wouldn’t change for the world. So, look around and make sure that you take the time to choose the right people to share it all with.

We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, so take a good look around and choose wisely!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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