As parents, we have accepted the role of being our children’s primary nurturers. If you’ve chose to homeschool, you’ve assumed responsibility for their education. Whether we formally homeschool or not, we are perpetually either planning opportunities designed to facilitate growth in our children, or taking advantage of the countless daily teachable moments. While we can take credit for molding and shaping our youngsters, the truth is that they can also become our best teachers. Some of my most powerful and priceless life lessons have come through my daughter.
It is with this in mind that Nia and I decided to write about three priceless life lessons we’ve learned from one another. I must confess that, even as I pen my own contribution, I am a bit anxious about what Nia has to say. However, we have a “no peek, grammar-edits-only” agreement regarding our blog.
There are the “usual” lessons that I’ve learned (and continue to learn) from our journey together regarding love, selflessness, patience, faith, trust and joy. Yet, honing in on three specific things was surprisingly difficult. So, after much brain-wrestling, heart-squeezing and time-sucking procrastination, here are my three life lessons.
Those closest to me know that I have a pretty high risk threshold, and an equally indomitable spirit. I see impossible as “I’m Possible”. I never imagined that fear existed in any cell in my body. I took the normal precautions to ensure Nia’s safety, and didn’t worry about the inevitable slips, falls, bumps or bruises. Then. Came. Skiing.
Maybe it was the dangerous slope of the bunny hill, or the fact that my first lesson since childhood was her first lesson in life. Perhaps it was the thought of that big, fast-moving lift whisking my teeny-weeny child up the mountain–20,000 feet from terra firma. Whatever it was, my heart stopped as she looked up at me and spoke words that made it difficult for me to swallow.
“Mommy, I want to go up on the lift.”
The lesson was over and she felt ready for more challenge than the teaching area provided. I explained to her that it really wasn’t a good idea. I rattled off a list of what I felt were reasonable skill-level and safety concerns. Then, with the maturity of a grown woman, she responded.
“It’s not fair that you won’t let me go up because of YOUR fears.”
I hadn’t seen it as fear; I preferred the term responsible caution. The truth was that it wasn’t a very big slope, she was already extremely close to the ground, and she had demonstrated a natural affinity for the sport. She won the debate, and I learned a lesson that day about being mindful about projecting limitations, or my fear, on to my child.
Sometimes, however, I need a gentle reminder. It’s not “falling” these days; it’s allowing natural consequences to play out without interference. Hey, it’s how we all learn most memorably. Some days, I think the ski-thing was easier.
My daughter is a “foodie”. Before we turned off the cable in our home,thirteen years ago, one of her favorite shows was “Dinner Impossible”. She loved cooking, eating and has an appreciation for all of the textures, flavors and presentation of food. She always seems to be very present at every meal. I’m usually thinking of the next one that requires preparation.
Frankly, it’s the way she approaches most things. Whether enjoying a favorite pastime like reading, watching a movie she’s seen a bazillion times before, or just riding in the car, her demeanor is often the same. The look is a cross between deep contemplation and ecstasy.
One day, when she was around seven, I questioned her about where she was in those moments of absorption. She smiled.
“I’m SAVORING, Mommy.”
I was taken by the simplicity and wisdom of her statement. She couldn’t give a lecture, at that time, about living fully in the present moment. Yet, she knew how to naturally be present in and savor even the smallest of life’s moments.
Nia has taught me to be more present. I am a very tough student. And, my backsliding is a challenge for my “teacher”. I’m still trying to unlearn years of societal busyness conditioning. Sometimes, I wish she’d remind me more. There is so much to savor.
Homeschooling is a great reminder and proof of some natural laws. “You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” “A watched pot never boils.” “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” I’ve learned the truth of each of them and many more on this impossible-to-define experience called parenting plus home education.
From potty-training on her own terms to the request to be homeschooled, Nia wielded more power than I ever revealed to her. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pretty tough mom. However, she is an equally definitive daughter. It’s hard to remember a time when she lacked the ability to articulate her thoughts and feelings in a pithy manner.
I remember the day she taught me the “Rome” lesson. I should have seen it coming, since she’s a huge fan of history. I was admonishing her regarding something for the (insert hyperbolic number here and add a “teenth”) time. To be fair, my response to repeated offenses was, historically, a much-too-long lecture repeating points that she, no doubt, already knew by heart.
This particular day her response was a bit spicy, yet it was also genuine. When I asked her why she was continuing to repeat the same behaviors expecting different results, she simply responded.
“I’m still LEARNING.”
It hit me like a ton of bricks, and became a lesson that I am still learning. She’ll never know the number of times her unwitting words have floated through my mind, and resulted in a change in how I approached her or a situation.
And, the times where it didn’t…well, I’m still learning, too!
What lessons have you learned from your children? What would they say they’ve learned from you?
Don’t forget to share!
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