The year that old dude (well, he was old to me) wrote that bestseller about learning all you needed to know in kindergarten, I was overstuffing my brain with college wisdom.
I rolled my eyes at Robert Fulgham’s simple truths while sacrificing many, many precious trees to fill notecard upon notecard with endless biology facts. I filled many paper cups with vending machine coffee while yawning my way through Dickens and Tolstoy. I turned a blind eye at free-spirited children’s laughter and squeals in the park I ran laps in until my legs gave out.
Then I lost some people that I loved. I mean really loved. Like three of the people that gave meaning to my life — all within a matter of 3 years. Three years is an eternity to a grieving heart.
The third loss was the hardest because it was someone younger than me — 18 months younger to be exact. I never thought I would lose someone so soon, nor so young. Out of desperation, I searched for a guru. I latched onto any human being older than me who seemed to spout an ounce of wisdom. I hung onto their every word as if my life depended on it; because to me, it did.
The man who eventually became my guru wasn’t well-known or even well-to-do. He was a simple man. A quiet man. Quiet, that is until he had something to say. When he spoke, my whole being woke up. His words sunk deep into the waters of my soul to steep there. I remember one day he said to me with a far-off look, “Watch children, Sarah. They get it.” My kind of clueless 20-something self just looked at him quizzically. But the words, like a good herbal tea, sunk deep into the waters of my soul.
All good guru relationships eventually come to a dramatic end. Well, mine did. But, like the good guru follower that I was, I let his teachings live on in the tea of my soul.
When my guru relationship ended, I started to grieve. Like really grieve. In my anger phase, I swore off ever needing a guru outside of myself — ever again. And then I became a mother. And the child that my body once housed did things that shook me to my core, in a guru kind of way.
When you stop searching for the guru, the guru arrives.
And what they have to teach is the stuff you already knew by kindergarten. Sadly, most children forget this wisdom by the time their ego fully develops at the tender age of seven. But most kids, whether they are babies or toddlers or elementary schoolers, embody this enlightened wisdom.
Here is the sage advice of the guru I never looked for (aka my daughter):
1. The moment is all we have, so live it up!
Small children are the definition of mindful. They completely embody the here and now it all its simple, beautiful glory. Everything is new and exciting. The same playground takes on new magic each time they visit it because they find the new. They use their senses to appreciate their surroundings. The fallen leaves on the slide are like an art installation and not a mess to be thrown out of their way. The acorns littering the swingset area are a treasure to be collected and studied and shared. My own child has always taken in nature like a Picasso or a Monet. She studies everything in our path, making a short walk an hours-long trek. My lesson in all this? Patience. I’ve learned to savor the sights, sounds, and sensory delights with her. Now when I walk solo, I go slow and appreciate everything along the path.
2. Love. Love again. And repeat.
Children love with no questions asked. Not only the strangers at the grocery store they say hi to for the tenth time you roll by them with your shopping cart, but also their very holy selves. I will never forget when my daughter started crawling at about 7 months old. She crawled over to a full-length mirror on the wall and started kissing her reflection. I started giggling. “That’s you. You’re the baby. Awww you love the baby.” As my daughter was having a mini makeout-fest with her reflection, I instantly thought, wow if the world could only look at their reflections with that much love every day, we might float away. Children love. Plain and simple. Any being who shows up in their world is pure magic, until they give them a reason to feel otherwise. But even moments of hate are short-lived with children (see #4). As an adult, this has taught me forgiveness. In my impassioned moments, I remember the sweetness of my 7-month old loving on her reflection. Hate is so not worth it in the end.
3. Be curious, not judgmental.
Nothing is ugly or disgusting or hateful for young children. Before social conditioning and the development of the reasoning mind, children have a lot of trouble being hateful and critical of the world around them. Before their ego develops, the world is simply a playground. Food is more than just edible; it is texture and color and smell and sensations on their pallette. Like cats, kids explore everything in sight. And, thanks to the developing brain, they have seven years of pretty non-judgemental living. But don’t forget, they are also testing boundaries, like the words No! and Yuck!. My kid liked her food in separate sections on the plate. Picky is not judgy, it’s boundary testing, which is a healthy part of development. Isn’t the world is such a beautiful place when that judgy, preachy, self-conscious mind takes a backseat? Find a kid and let them show you it is so.
4. Feel it all, then let it go.
Tantrum much? Kids know how to feel. It all. Not that I’m promoting flopping on the floor while screaming and pulling at your hair, but — if you’re a parent you probably get more traumatized by your child’s tantrum than your child does. I know during my daughter’s toddler years I would be aghast at how she could flail about with such rage and then all the sudden ask me to play dolls with her as if nothing happened. Wait, weren’t you just upset? What happened to all that feeling? Kids know how to let it out. They cry when they’re sad. They stomp when they’re mad. They cling to your legs when they’re scared. They giggle with glee when they’re happy. And mind you, they also have the capability to feel this range of emotion within a matter of minutes! Eventually, they learn to voice their feelings, but only after they’ve mastered the foundation for living a healthy life: feeling it and letting it go. What of a world where feelings were felt instead of repressed and projected out in unhealthy, often indirect, passive-aggressive ways? If you struggle as I do at times with feeling feelings as they arise and then letting them go, then schedule a playdate with a toddler and study them up (but don’t bring a notebook, that’s just plain weird)!
. . .
The wisdom we can glean from children lies beyond the realm of the intellect.
It requires no financial investment and no pre-approved textbooks. All that’s needed are an open heart and a curious mind. I think we all have those. Some of us might need to get out the duster and remove the cobwebs to find them. Remember to bring a kid with you. And a magnifying glass. I hear cobwebs look amazing in just the right light. And spiders love tea parties in silly hats.
This post was previously published on Publishous and is republished here with permission from the author.
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