Why You’ll Learn More About Yourself, Thanks To Kids

Arguably one of life’s greatest mysteries is understanding who we are and why we are here.

Heavy stuff I know, but at the heart of it all, it’s true. Whoever we may be.

Over the years, I’ve cheated… quiet a bit in this area.

I’m a little embarrassed to confess to reading my fair share of self-help books (some ridiculously cheesy), watched enough Oprah in her hey-day to be considered ‘sad’ and listened to quite a few inspirational speakers, all in an effort to make me feel as though I was learning something about who I was.

I’d travelled, lived and worked abroad and changed careers a few times. Couple that with the shirking of some nasty fears along the way and it felt like at least, a culmination of personal experiences counted for some extra points on the ‘life path’ ladder.

For a fleeting moment there, I felt like it was all coming together. I knew who I was and where I was going.

Hha ha, I hear you snigger. Yes, that was all BC (Before Children). Such a long, long way back… or so it seems.

Kids are soooooo many things: cute, cuddly, annoying, destructive, loving, creative, emotional, demanding, dirty, loud and the list goes on. But what I never took them for were Teachers.

If you’re around them long enough, often enough, either in a parental capacity, Aunt or Uncle, teacher or tutor, they inevitably have this profound ability to teach you more about yourself, than anything else ever could.

I wanted to acknowledge just some of the invaluable life lessons all our kids teach us.

You won’t find these in any self-help book. There’s possibly not even a TED talk about it yet, but here they are. And credit, where credits due, I give thanks to the amazing little teachers my three boys are.

  1. Practicing patience – I use to practice yoga, now I just practice patience….every minute of everyday. While I’m not often perfect in its execution, I’m pleased to say I’m at least practicing it daily…actually every minute of each day. (Did I say that already?) Road rage is a thing of the past, when you’ve now got screaming kids in the back car laying into one another over who gets to eat the last two raisins, recently discovered hiding between the car seats.
  2. Discovering how much you have to give – even when you’re running pretty much on empty…….2 days ago, there seems to be a reservoir of forgiveness, love and compassion for your kids, that remains hidden deep below. I think this sometimes manages to infiltrate into other areas of our lives too. Perhaps it’s in the early stages of becoming my default setting…..or so I’d like to think.
  3. Learning the real value of things – the absolute truth of it is that kids don’t really care about ‘stuff’ or ‘things’. They care most about the time and attention you can afford them. Humans interaction is their currency.
  4. The importance of looking after ourselves – because the idea of eating Kale and devising several ways to serve it up to your kids, would never have occurred to you prior to being a parent. You now know it’s nutritional value and are quite happy to quote this information to whomever should ask…..or not ask.
  5. Being silly is good – laughing at yourself is one of life’s simple pleasures and kids certainly know how to bring out the buffoon in us all. The child that accidentally farted at the dinner table, has turned a hectic weekday meal into a competition of epic proportions and allowed for thrilling dinner time entertainment, all for free.
  6. Discovering where your real breaking point is – forget the stress of work! It’s a big stress most of the time trying to look after kids. There is no time for private retreats to the toilet, no such things as an ‘easy’ day and you’re effectively their Personal Assistant night and day. Your personal pressure point has somewhat shifted to allowed for increased variables in what can and does go unplanned in any given day.
  7. OMG look how resourceful I can be!- makeshift nappies -I can do, outstripped food supplies – no problem, bruised bloodied limbs – I’m your registered nurse, tantrum trouble – a constant counselor I’m learning to be and happy to say, making personal steady progress in the anger management department.

From kids we learn more about ourselves, than we ever could on our adult own. We might raise them, care for them and even teach them, but they’re really the ones offering us something special…. amidst all the chaos!

 

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All The Knowledge We Cannot Know

It’s funny how the older we get, the more we are willing to accept, the less we really know.

As frustrating as this may be, as much as we might pretend we’re in control and drawing on a vast bank of acquired knowledge….we really have absolutely no clue what-so-ever…… most of the time …….about most things.

(I hope that’s not just me!)

Sure, we may be professionals or experts in a given field perhaps; astronomy, real estate, gardening, finance, but even then, if we’re honest – we certainly can’t know it all and there are always so many more questions than answers.

Like a bottomless bucket that will never be filled, our attempt to know more often leaves us wanting more.

During the early Enlightenment period in Europe, philosophers believed knowledge was the pathway to providing happiness, that ignorance was the provocateur of unhappiness.

But of course, we now know, that even this understanding was flawed.

Socrates the great Greek philosopher himself was wise to this, much earlier on – “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing”.

Supposedly understanding the limits of what he knew, brought Socrates a profound sense of contentment.

As humans, we each are on a quest to ‘know’ more. To learn The How, The Why, The What etc. It’s what separates us from animals; our insatiable appetite to know ‘stuff’.

But I wonder if it’s not so much as the ‘knowing’ as it is in the ‘learning’ and knowing how we learn, that offers us that greater reward; a richer wisdom.

Thomas Edison once said “We don’t know 1% of 100 million about anything”. Smart chap he was!

Do I pretend to know who ‘such-n-such’ is, that a friend quoted the other day?

Can I explain why the trees are green and not purple to my 7 year old son?

What the heck are ‘Frankenfoods’? And how can I begin to understand what’s at the edge of the universe?

I love learning (a prerequisite for being a teacher no doubt), but ironically the more I know, the more exposed I feel. The more restless I become, the more anxious I feel.

When our heads are heavy with the weight of knowing, why is it there is still an emptiness inside?

The realisation that we can never know it all is an undisputed fact, but that doesn’t stop us from trying and feeling inadequate most of the time, when we don’t know something.

So surely better than exploring all the infinite possibilities out there, is the challenge to know HOW to learn. HOW to appreciate our mind’s workings and finding the purpose in learning.

Science is driven by such a quest. It is not just the knowledge uncovered, the theory confirmed, the discovery made, but the quest itself.

The continually shifting horizon and the knowledge of the process of discovery gained along the way, is of just as much value, if not more.

It’s incredible how little we really know about the world, what makes up its parts and our place in it all.

And yet we are told that ‘Knowledge is power’.

With knowledge comes the ability to make informed decisions, the key to unlock doors, an appreciation for empathy and tolerance for others. Great stuff all round.

“That knowledge humbles me, melts my bones, closes my ears, and makes my teeth rock loosely in their gums. And it also liberates me. I am a big bird winging over high mountains, down into serene valleys. I am ripples of waves on silver seas. I’m a spring leaf trembling in anticipation.” ― Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

But just like accumulating ‘things’ doesn’t always guarantee their use, so too knowledge doesn’t always equate to wisdom.

We could argue that the more valued trait is an understanding of HOW we learn, how we acquire knowledge. Better yet, our purpose that drives us on this quest.

Asking an inordinate number of questions and being open to all possibilities, appreciating our own ignorance, while remaining forever curious and utilising our ‘head space’ to its full potential, have got be a winning combination.

“The greatest pleasure of ignorance is, after all, the pleasure of asking questions. The man who has lost this pleasure or exchanged it for the pleasure of dogma, which is the pleasure of answering, is already beginning to stiffen.” Robert Lynd

Read…..sure. Talk…… yes. Listen….. absolutely. Observe…. most definitely! Throw into that mix, the DOING and we’re living really, aren’t we? But the best kind.

The mind boggles at how much there is still to know. How much is out there that we could, should but more interestingly WON’T ever get to know?

And that’s what makes the unwrapping of the gift so much more exciting than the present itself.

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Who are we really? The Holiday

It’s a little known truth that very few of us are certain of who we are.

Yes, we may be a teacher (who daringly dabbles in free-diving), a nurse (with a penchant for fierce rally driving), a (surfing) social worker or a businessman (who bakes on the weekends), but that’s barely scratching the surface of who we really are.

The new year has barely begun, but this question has been hanging out with me all through these holidays. Happily, dreamily, willing me on. With it’s beloved cousin ‘time’ also by my side, I’ve had the luxury of doing and musing on a great many things.

(Among them, clearly viewing too many period dramas, now that I’ve written that!)

So, without sounding too 20th Century, how do we begin to acknowledge or even explain, the multifaceted individuals that we are? And why is it important that we even do this; take the time to explore what makes up us?

The world of workholiday-dreaming

While our jobs may be part of this puzzle, we are commonly caught up in a world of work that inevitably but unfairly define us and leaves little room (and time) for us to be who we truly are, or would hope to be.

In truth, when meeting new people it’s not long before the proverbial question ‘So what do you do?’ enters the conversation.

Yes, it seems harmless enough and surely warranted when beginning to surmise who this stranger before us is. We can immediately make some connection then, place them in a social grouping, maybe even judge what ‘type’ of a person they may (or may not) be. But it is ultimately a flawed question.

The work we choose to do (in most cases at least) says something about us.

‘Occupations shape who we are….. Every occupation weakens or reinforces aspects of our nature’ Book of Life.

The Aged-care worker is a giver; patient and attentive. The artist; imaginative and creative. The farmer; methodical, persistent and determined.who-we-are

But no one job can ever be enough to satisfy all the parts of us and it certainly should not alone define us.

Specialised and finite as our jobs may be, they are often void of opportunities to explore the vast array of talents and interests we possess. We are so much more than the ‘work’ we do, but how easy it is ‘to behave across our whole lives like the people work has required us to be’.

Do we work to live, or live to work?

So it would seem that time off from work; holidays, provide us not only with a ‘break from work’, but with this freeing platform to delve greedily, recklessly and wantonly into our creative talents, our hidden pleasures and allow us the space to be free with our ideas and behaviours (somewhat).

If we are so fortunate as to claim some ‘holiday’ time, we can indulge in our passion to paint, explore that interest in film, fashion up some new culinary concoctions or simply experiment with several ways to potter about the place.

We can dedicate time delving into that new interest, partake in being a present parent and play for the sake of playing.success-on-beach

When else in life, do we have the time and space to do these soul satisfying acts? And when else is there a better time to appreciate and acknowledge who we really are? Or indeed, who we would like to be?

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