I thought I was teaching them. Looking at it differently, I think they have taught me, too. When I had to break down lessons ― from the top ― I realized that I had to learn a few of them again. My girls helped me do that. Here are 10 examples of my daughters schooling me in life:
1. How to apologize (and mean it)
Before I had children, there were times that I needed to own up to mistakes I made. That was easier said than done. But when I had to teach the girls how to apologize for their mistakes, I realized that I had to learn along with them. I showed them there is nothing wrong with being wrong- and it is so much better for you if you admit to it, and apologize for it.
2. Use my manners
Who knew you could forget to say “please” and “thank you?” I work with the public, so I see this happen all the time. But I am sure those same people teach their kids to use their manners. As many times as I have said that to my children, those kind words are used almost too much by me. We want our children to behave in a mannerable way, we can benefit from doing the same.
3. Smile often
The girls are always smiling, and I used to think it was sometimes for no reason. But the more I think, they have plenty reasons to be happy and smile. They may not be conscious of the why, and I think that matters little. I took that cue from them, I put a smile on my face regardless of circumstance, and I can say that my disposition has vastly improved.
4. Cry when you need to
We smile often, yes, but sometimes there is a need for tears. To experience this sort of catharsis allows us to free pent-up emotions that need to go for us to heal. The girls have shown me that it is ok to be sensitive, instead of listening to those who criticize for that same reason. Cry it out, then put that smile back on.
5. Live right now
Tomorrow is not promised; grown-ups know that. Kids rarely think that way. But since I had children, I have observed that ― though they do not necessarily realize there could not be a next day ― they still have the resolve to do all the fun things right now. In turn, it has been my goal to tag along and enjoy the time we have together in the most fun ways, within our means.
6. Love without expectation
When I my oldest was born, she brought with her a new meaning to love. Familial love is important, but it is still different to the love I have for my children. Romantic love is certainly different than my love for my girls. What the girls have taught me is to love wholly and without condition. I don’t expect anything from them in return, I know that my love for them is unwavering, regardless of anything else.
Kids bring tests. Sometimes I pass. Other times I fail. Through much trial and error, I have learned through all of these tests, there must be time to breathe. I have employed all kinds of internet breathing exercises, and finally settled on one I can use. The important thing I forced myself to remember is there is an end to all questionable behaviors, and I have no choice but to work through them. Making sure my body is properly equipped to handle the temporary stress starts with taking those first calming breaths.
8. Dance freely
From Vivaldi Summer “Presto” to Bob Marley “Concrete Jungle” to Sia “Cheap Thrills,” my girls can’t stop moving. They would dance all night if I let them (sometimes I do). Dancing is not only good aerobics, but my girls have shown me that it heals the soul, too. So, when they dance, I dance. Dance parties bring us closer together and provides lighthearted entertainment (they’re literally dancing right now).
9. Emulate someone you admire
When we were kids, being a “copycat” was not necessarily a good thing. My baby girl made me change my mind. She looks up to her big sister in such a way that is truly genuine. She wants to wear the same clothes, eat the same foods, and watch the same shows. I realized that her big sister acts the same with me. They see what they like, done by who they love, and they follow suit. I think it is a good thing. Having said that, it is important to make sure positivity is spread, and not the alternative.
10. Trouble don’t last always
After my second little girl was born, I experienced depression for a time. I did not want to continue the way I was going, so I leaned on the two people I knew would never leave my side: my daughters. I depended on them for those moments to help me out of the darkness. Their smiles, and dancing, and tests, and love boosted me out of the sadness I almost let consume me. When they showed me their sadness was temporary, it taught me there is inevitably an end to it. It made me more confident to shape up. And one day, I woke up, and the light was so bright with possibility and promise. I know I have them to thank for that.
Having them has allowed me to learn and live again. My daughters are also my teachers.
Shana Swain has a blog, feedmetipme.wordpress.com and reports for the Lowcountry Herald.