Lessons My Children Teach Me
I’ll file this under “Lessons My Children Teach Me.” And let me tell you, this file is getting rather thick. This week the lesson was taught by my 5 year old daughter. I dropped her off for her first day of farm camp alone. I had signed her up for a camp that I thought sounded super fun and also educational (win win) but none of her friends were able to join. I signed her up anyways because temperamentally she is an extroverted, curious spirit. But when I dropped her off, I felt a little bit of my own anxiety creep up in my belly and in to my tear ducts. Would she enjoy herself, would she be safe, would she feel included? I watched as she navigated the different groups of kids playing and after several minutes she said “You can go now Mommy.” I didn’t argue, even though I wanted to stay and secretly watch her all day. I trusted her own knowing and I got in my car and drove away leaving her to her own experience.
Of course, I was eager to pick her up and batter her with questions about her day. Again, I resisted my urges and instead allowed her to share the parts she wanted to share. One of the first things she told me about was all the new friends she made. There were some random facts about farm animals and a few tidbits about the activities they did (like petting baby goats, be still my heart). But she was most excited about the new friends and her group for the week, the Green Apples. On the way to camp on the second day, she chatted excitedly about her new friend Emma. She had no idea how old she was, her last name or where she goes to school. But none of these things mattered. All she knew was that she liked playing with her. When we arrived at camp, she scurried off to find Emma, and they immediately immersed themselves in a game of frisbee with other girls. As I watched this budding friendship that most likely will not outlive camp, I was awe struck by the simplicity of it. The connection is pure and unfiltered. It is based solely on a mutual enjoyment of one another. There are no preconceived ideas, no worries about status or perception. I’m not quite sure why we move away from this as we get older, but I think it’s one of the leading causes of adults feeling disconnected and alone. As kids, we choose friends based on intuition and authenticity. As adults, we often choose friends, partners and groups based on social status, and a cost/benefit analysis. This older, more “mature” way of choosing actually seems to be ignorant and less evolved. And it’s not doing much for our self esteem, sense of community and neighborly attitudes.
By day three, she had already had a little disagreement with these new pals. Her feelings were hurt, and of course this was heartbreaking for me to hear. But I also know that working thru disagreements is a critical part of relationships. So while the mama bear part of me wanted to drive right back to camp and have a word with the other girls, the human part of me knew that this would rob her of an important part of the connection – reconciliation. We talked thru the misunderstanding and how to take ownership (in kid terms) of her part and then speaking her truth about having her feelings hurt as well as her desire to still be friends. It felt emotional and raw and catapulted me right back to those extremely vulnerable adolescent years, but it was also a reminder of the beauty of the repair. I also anticipate this conversation happening several hundred more times between now and her leaving for college.
I find myself yearning for certain parts of childhood. Obviously the not paying bills part is high on the list of reasons, but actually it’s the innocence, honesty and acceptance that children lead with that tops the list. Just watch children on the playground. A gaggle of kids who at the beginning have no knowing of one another will be running together, playing games and laughing within minutes. It’s quite impressive, this speed with which they engage. No pretense, no need to check references or get a back story. Children assume that you are good and worthy and valuable. Adults assume that you are not until you prove otherwise. Children wear their hearts on their sleeves, which makes it easy to know where you stand. I’m going to channel my inner child and follow my kids’ examples. More play and less pretense. More we and less me.