Do kids really pay us back for our efforts? Today we are revisiting an earlier discussion of the notion that kids repay us back in spades for all the resources they lovingly consume from us. In case you missed it (READ HERE), the concept we explored was that young children are worth the time, energy, angst, and money because they allow us to revisit a forgotten time in our lives when the world was new and an inherent, seemingly genetic force compelled us into limitless enthusiasm for the observation and appreciation for everything around us. As majestic as that sounds, I supplemented that profundity with the shining example of my infant gobbling dead leaves. Great work, dad. Perhaps that wasn’t the best example, but I believe a general consensus can be formed that one of the most redeeming quality of young children is their fascination for every iota of the mundane and the commonplace in our lives. As parents, we witness and marvel at the spectacle of every first that comes along for our children, whether that be the first bite of sweet or sour or the awestruck amusement of their first snowfall. We continue the theme today as we reluctantly admit that we may indeed learn as much from our kids as they learn from us. If my forays into potty-training can attest, I clearly am retaining more lessons from my daughters than they are from me. Sigh.
After I wrote the last post praising my daughters (and all children) for approaching every new object and experience with vigor and fascination, I realized that I completely whiffed on sharing the greatest example of how a kid’s perspective is worth emulating. While my wife and I have been battling the teething doldrums with our infant, our toddler has thankfully been sleeping like a rock; no matter how hard her sister wails in torment next door, Eliza never wakes up. I sometimes check her pulse, just to be sure, as there is little she can’t sleep through. So our little 3 year old is a good sleeper, no? Not so fast. While Eliza may sleep like her father after a Thanksgiving dinner, the battle to get to sleep wages relentlessly on. Did I put her to bed at 8:00 last night? You bet. Was she still kicking the wall, belting out B-I-N-G-O, and disciplining her stuffed animals two hours later? Also yes.
As I listened to my daughter empty her mind of every song and spare thought she’s ever known while laying in a dark room, I couldn’t help but smile at the ironic ridiculousness of it all; she is literally too excited to sleep because she is so enthusiastic to live. She babbles incessantly to herself about who she has seen today and who she might see tomorrow. She giggles with smothered gasps reliving all of the moments she’s been disciplined and barbarically chortles as she uses the same punishments on her poor stuffed animal army she takes to bed. She lists her friends and family name by name as she lovingly murmurs nonsensical prayers. Is there any better example of how our kids repay us than watching a toddler fight off sleep because they cannot stand missing out on a single opportunity to enjoy life?
Imagine a period of your life, or a single night, where you revered your days in such a manner that you could hardly sleep. You tossed and turned in bated enthusiasm, desperate for the next day to begin. I think back to the nerves the night before high school ball games, I think back to the early stages of dating my lovely wife, I think back to summer nights (before summer became like every other season, only hotter), and I think back to scattered moments of apex joy (my wedding, the night before a long vacation, a reunion party, etc.). What I don’t normally think about was last night, when the teether was whining at all hours and a 17 hour day was waiting for me. I don’t think about the Friday and Saturday nights I collapse in a heap worrying about the errand list for the weekend. And I certainly don’t lay awake on Sunday nights twiddling my thumbs about the excitement the work week will bring.
There are two independent but tangential morals to my rambling story. First, we can return to the premise that our children are our daily reminder that life is worth appreciating, that wonder crawls over every plane of our existence, and that we often—if not always—overlook and take our day-to-day for granted. We can not only learn how to better cherish our daily lives from the little ankle biters, but we can also extrapolate that reverence to our great fortune in raising them. Perhaps we can’t replenish our childlike appreciation for all the repetitive minutiae of life, but we can absolutely recognize that watching our little miniature humans is a privilege in itself. Second, while somewhat disconnected from the theme, it is possible the takeaway from witnessing a child’s affection for the day-to-day is in actuality a challenge for us to identify what in life returns us to our primitive being where sleep acts as a nuisance on our path to desired productivity. So when was the last time you could hardly sleep because you were so excited to take on the next day? When was the last time you started a work week eagerly waiting to attack a project? As fatigued, beleaguered parents, we shouldn’t forget that we also need to pursue experiences worthy of adoration while we also do our best to step alongside our little ones in gratitude for the day-to-day. In the meantime, I guess I better grab a pen and a notepad and sit outside my daughter’s room tonight and try to learn from the midnight musings of a madwoman toddler…