Simple lessons

fireworks over water

I have never been so ready to welcome the new year. The last half of 2013 was tumultuous, and the holidays were filled with a bit of drama I could have done without. As I bid 2013 a most deserved goodbye, I have been challenged to dig deep into my being and remember the kind of person I want to model for my child, so that means not getting hung up on those who add absolutely no value to our lives. And sometimes that’s what it comes down to. Doing away with those who don’t make us better people.

For my partner and me, part of becoming better individuals means constantly attempting to master living a simple life.  Not just going through the actions, but truly living how we’d like without feeling obliged, judged or being made to feel uncomfortable.

This past holiday, our 16-month-old daughter was more aware than she was last year of the Christmas season complete with snowmen, strings of lights, and multiple visits to and from family. Teaching her the value of a simple life began the day she was born.

Here’s what I want her to learn:

Memories and experiences are everything, not material goods. We gifted her one Christmas present this year – a trolley and Daniel Tiger figure from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and no it wasn’t from Santa. Daniel Tiger has incredible and simple life lessons like learning how to take a deep breath and calm down. Every night that we turned the holiday lights on, I’d hear a resounding “Wow!” from an enthusiastic toddler. In her own way, she told me to take a deep breath and enjoy the memory making.

Toddlers have it right. Get outdoors. When there was a snow shower yesterday, we immediately went outside to the driveway as she danced in the sunshine with the snowflakes. By the way, no technology required.

Try not to be in a hurry. When we climb the stairs to her bedroom for nap/bedtime, I constantly remind myself to take it slow and not carry N. up the stairs just so we can get to bed immediately. She’s still learning to climb, so she takes her time using both hands, knees and legs to get up 14 steps. And we count every single one (because she won’t be this little forever).

Play and the learning will come. N. received a toy piggy bank as one of her holiday presents. While some parents might be eager to show their children how a toy works so that they ‘get it’ right away, I have worked to restrain myself from showing her how things work. Instead, I just leave her be until she figures it out. Took her a while to get the coordination down, but she finally figured out how to put the coins in her bank and save money! Same goes with her books. I am so grateful that I can leave her alone with a pile of books, and she delights simply in paging through them for extended time periods. That’s my independent and smart girl. While early childhood education advocates would argue the need for structured learning, there’s something to be said for interest-led learning, especially in the early years. There’s enough structure to adhere to in the world once kids are school aged and thereafter.

Sometimes it’s okay to do without structure and organization. Sometimes it’s okay to just see what interests us, and just maybe we’ll figure it out . . . and have fun too.

It’s a new year. How do you intend to slow down and play more in 2014?

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