I’ve learned a lot over the past year: how to put on shoes one-handed, that doing the laundry is way more fun with a mini-helper, just where my tolerance level for poop-on-the-hand resides, etc. But, more importantly, I’ve learned a lot about human nature as I’ve watched my little girl grow and explore the world.
1. From the very beginning we only want what we can’t have. It’s such a cliche, but it’s also so true. We desire something so much it nearly kills us, but when we finally get it, we don’t really want it anymore. Already we’ve moved on to desiring the next unavailable thing. Whether it’s the guy or girl we just can’t get, the car we can’t quite afford, the job that simply must be better than the one we have now, or even something as simple as summer when it’s winter and fall when it’s 95 degrees in August. We always want what we can’t have. And, as the Buddhists would say, this desire is at the root of all suffering. Why do we do this to ourselves?
Well, maybe we just can’t help it. I watch Adeline reach for the things she knows she’s not allowed to have, open the drawers she never gets to go in, and discard with disgust all the toys she knows she can have. And it seems clear as day: our painful yearning after what we can’t have is nearly instinctual.
2. I’m not the only one who gets crabby when I’m hungry. If it’s 1:30 and I haven’t had lunch yet you’re going to want to avoid me. Or, if you must deal with me, be really, really nice. Scratch that, I’ll probably just be annoyed at your niceness. Just get me a freaking sandwich!
Turns out, it’s not just me. When Adeline is hungry she becomes a raging crab-apple. (I just can’t bring myself to call my daughter a bitch in a public forum.) She cries about every little thing, she’s even discovering how to toss herself backward and stomp her feet – we’re mere days away from full-on tantrums. But I get where she’s coming from. Being hungry sucks. First world problems, people.
3. Fear is not natural. Adeline is fearless. Seriously, the only time I’ve seen her afraid is when I put her in one of those bucket swings a couple months ago and she just wasn’t ready for it. Her lip quivered and her expression was undoubtedly one of fear. I had never seen it before, but I knew it was fear. And I’ve never seen it since. She walks up to big dogs without a second thought, she explores new spaces with only a little help from mama, she runs down the driveway even though that’s where she fell (she remembers that she fell, I can tell because she will ask for a little help, but she’s just not afraid), she tries new things over and over until she gets them right, never afraid that she might fail.
I watch her and sometimes I’m afraid for her, but she’s just fine. Maybe she does fall, but she gets right up again. And I look at myself and I see that fear has cozied up inside me and made a little home for itself. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of looking stupid or of messing up, fear of trying new things, fear of going after my dreams, fear that paralyzes and numbs. I need to be more fearless – I don’t want Adeline to learn fear from me.
4. Sometimes all you need is a hug. When Adeline is having a rough day or she’s just a little overtired she’ll look at me and I know she wants a hug. I’ll sit down on the floor and open my arms and she’ll come running over and throw her arms around me and nuzzle her head into my shoulder and, for that moment, everything is alright. Maybe that one hug is enough, or maybe she’ll need many more hugs that day. But either way, sometimes a hug is all you need.
And, especially in the last year, I’ve learned how true that is of myself too. Sometimes when I’m having a bad day, David comes home and I start to take it out on him. He might try to kiss me and I’m just irritated and I wave him away. Things could start to get worse. But, if I’m aware enough to catch myself, I’ll give him a hug and suddenly everything is better. All of the stresses and troubles melt away for the moment in the warmth and comfort of human contact.
5. Life is better with forgiveness. Sometimes I get upset, either with something Adeline is doing or just with other stuff, and Adeline can tell: she gets upset too. But she doesn’t hold it against me. The moment I smile again, she smiles too. And she forgets the trouble and moves on. She’s happy and life is good.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could so easily let go and forgive when someone upsets us or hurts us? I know for me, at least, I tend to hold on to that pain for much longer than is useful. But I always feel better when I do, eventually, let go. If only I could be like Adeline and let go so easily. My little girl has the right idea.