Bo, a 13-year-old German Shepherd looked at the newest arrival into the family with a look of disdain. He walked over and sniffed Rosie, a 12-week-old German Shepherd puppy, and walked away. Rosie looked at him curiously with her little young puppy eyes, wondering what she will be learning from him.
A few months later, when Rosie was bigger and running faster, both Bo and she could be seen racing through the fields. Bo used to wander on his own slowly and only running to fetch the ball. However, the Bo that was seen now was completely different from the Bo before Rosie entered the family. He was now more playful, more spritely, and seemed happier. He engaged with Rosie, chasing each other around and tumbling in the grass at times. He barked more, showed more interest in life, and was fiercely protective of Rosie from bigger dogs.
There was an education taking place. However, it was more of Bo learning (or relearning) from Rosie than him teaching her.
When you were a baby, you had no inhibitions. You dreamed that you could be anything when you were a child. You would build, invent, imagine, and construct fantasies, ideas, and dreams. There were no limits to your imagination. One day, you would be a princess meeting a faraway prince, another day, you would be a soldier defending your castle and your king. Or perhaps you did not see, feel or know your limitation, feeling invincible and vulnerable at the same time. Your mind was fresh, open, and naïve. You would believe anything anyone told you. You would gaze at a butterfly or an earthworm with wonder and awe. The simple ways of nature like falling leaves and a raging river after a rain would fascinate you. You can spend hours running in puddles and enjoy being in the rain without feeling you are just getting wet.
The reality is that you had brilliance, a genius, and innocence in you before it was reduced, replaced, and removed from you as you experienced life. Your surroundings, role models, and environment convinced you to ‘grow up’, ‘be responsible’, and (god forbid) ‘act like an adult’ as though being an adult was the ultimate destination of what children should strive to be. That is simply not true. Adults are deteriorated children. There is a magnificence in a child that not many adults possess, though they did so before.
There are many things that adults do that would mystify a child. Why do adults say things they do not mean? Why do adults do jobs they do not enjoy doing? Why do adults spend so much time worrying about things that no one can solve? Why do adults worry at all? Why do adults have so much confusion over feelings especially when they have had all these years of experience and practice? Why do adults get upset over events that they have simply no control over? Why do adults think that they can even control anything?
There is reverence on observing how a child thinks and how simple things are kept simple in their minds. The beauty of it is that your learning can be regained. When you spend time with children, two distinct lessons begin. The first is merely by observing, appreciating, and understand their minds, actions, and talk. It will allow you to remember what you were like before, the contentment you felt a long time ago before you experienced the sadness and toil of ‘normal living’. You will see how to appreciate the simple things in life including saying what you mean and meaning what you say. You may even remember what it is like to speak only the truth even if it is difficult. Or actually feel bad when you tell a lie instead of justifying it for some ‘noble’ reason that made it ok to lie. You will learn friendship and communication from their interactions with their friends in school and how it is much more simple. Isn’t it interesting how you were taught to be ‘politically correct’ and be more sensitive in your language until the meaning is lost in dilution when all you crave is a straight answer? You can literally take notes in your lessons for gratitude, communication, joy, peace, and freedom by being a student with a child.
The second lesson is more involved, more challenging, more fun, and ultimately, more fulfilling and rewarding. A child will constantly test you (any parent can attest to that). She will act in ways you do not comprehend. She will push all your buttons… really hard. She will pull out sensations, frustrations, stress, and possibly anger you never knew existed in you. You will feel feelings you have never felt before. You will not feel in control. You may sometimes even wonder at yourself how did you become this person you do not recognize. Your values and beliefs will be tested. Any child is capable of doing that. You will feel even more conflicted if she was your child. That is the beauty of it. Instead of getting frustrated, if you can, simply let go. She is providing the best platform for your learning. She is facilitating an environment that allows you to grow which you would not have experienced if it was not for her. She has created and constructed (without her knowing at times) perfect situations that allow you to learn and become a better and bigger version of yourself. She is a relentless teacher (not the type you have in schools that will stop if it is too much for you) that does not give up on teaching you. A wild free spirit that serves to remind you that you were once like that. When you are fortunate enough to experience that, use all your power of consciousness not to waste the opportunity to grow. Before you go into default and explode, ask yourself what would the better version of you do. When you get this right, you will win in three ways. Firstly, you will learn and grow as a result. Next, the child will learn to grow with more freedom, confidence, and self-awareness. Lastly, you will develop an even more special bond with the child. There are many who pay a lot of money on lessons like these!
So, know that adults are deteriorated children. Accept that there is probably more you can learn from children than you can teach them. Protect their genius and reclaim your own. If you are a parent, embrace each interaction with your child as an opportunity to learn. In doing so, know that you will win in three ways. If you are not blessed with a child yet, go borrow one! Babysitting, child-minding or simply being in the presence of these amazing beings is a gift you can give yourself any time.
Bo has learned how to be young again from Rosie. What do you need to learn from the next child you see?
‘You are only young once but you can remain immature indefinitely.’ – Germaine Greer