How many of you remember the book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”? Published in 1989, this instant bestseller took the lessons that we learned as children and showed us how to live meaningful adult lives from them. I remember it sitting on the coffee table in our house and thinking as a teenager – yeah, that’s just about right – they ain’t got nothing left to teach me! How wrong I was. Because while Kindergarten can definitely be used to give us a strong foundation, I have come to the conclusion that raising our own children is the true teacher of life lessons.
So, I decided to share the lessons that motherhood has taught me with you. One lesson at a time. This will be an ongoing series where I will be able to share some of the most important life lessons I’ve ever learned – the ones my children have taught me. I hope you’ll join me for the ride!
Lesson Number 1: People Are Confusing, But Children are a True Mystery!
Ever look at your child with complete frustration and utter those words “What in the world made you think that was OK?” Welcome to Motherhood! As an adult, we can (most of the time) understand and rationalize what we and other adults do – our actions, our re-actions and our general lack of mature thinking in certain situations. We are prepared to reason with each other and work through situations. We can explain and argue our points and even though we may never see eye to eye, we can walk away from a situation knowing that our side of the story was heard and (hopefully) understood.
Not so with children. Have you ever tried rationalizing a one year old’s actions? Take MillerBug for example. He LOVES to climb to the top of the stairs and turn around and try to step off. Needless to say, this just about makes my heart stop. But when I try to explain to him that this can cause an “ouchie”, I am met with a blank stare. Not only does he not understand but he sees me as the bad guy who is trying to ruin his fun. So I try another technique. I try to teach him through experience. I put him on the bottom step and let him walk off and fall. And instead of the expected reaction of tears, I am met with laughter! And a repeat of the same performance. What has this taught me. That when dealing with children, expect the unexpected. And know that no amount of explanation is going to change the desire to make decisions independently. Because reasoning with a child is like beating your head against a brick wall. It is the true definition of insanity: trying the same thing and expecting different results!
And then you get to your older children. The ones who you are sure have the sense to understand. And instead they go out and do the exact thing that they have been taught not to. I heard a while back that the brain is not fully developed until a child enters their 20’s and that expecting them to make well thought out decisions is a waste of time. That yes, their brains are capable of knowing and rationalizing but that the neurons just do not fire correctly to help them make those correct decisions in the heat of the moment. I FULLY believe this most days. It is like dealing with an alien species at times. There have been moments when J-Man has done something that leaves me standing in the middle of the room with my mouth hanging open in utter shock. And he can completely justify his actions so that they make sense in his mind. But only in HIS mind.
That is the mystery of children. Yes, we once were children ourselves but in the daily responsibilities and madness of parenthood, we have forgotten how we ourselves used to think in the simplest terms and make decisions based on instant gratification instead of long term consequences. And even when we go back to those most basic ways of though, we can still not understand or grasp a child’s brain.
We often hear that we should treat our children like adults – let them learn consequences to every action. Let them make decisions and suffer the outcome. And that this will teach them. However, we do not take into account that a child’s brain does not function like an adult’s. It is not developed enough to use all of the reasoning skills that we have worked so hard to teach them. Why? Who knows! But try to reason with a child and you more often than not find this to be true.
But they are children. So while their actions may baffle us on a daily basis, we need to keep in mind that their insane reasoning is actually completely normal. And that, in my mind, makes them the true mystery. I have learned that parenting is being there to guide them but accepting that we will never fully understand them is essential. So embrace that inability to crack the mystery of your child. And stop worrying because their inability to make any type of rational decision now will not carry over into adulthood (in most cases).
After all, you were once a mystery to your parents and look at how far you’ve come!