Day 156 of #LiveWell2017
I’m thankful for my kid. It’s weird (perhaps even embarrassing) to call my 30-year-old son a kid, but like Robert Munsch wrote in the picture book Love You Forever:
“I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.”
Having kids is tough. Anyone who’s ever said being a parent is easy is lying to you. The only thing easy about being a parent is loving your kids. From the moment he was born, I felt a love greater than anything I ever imagined. That love is unconditional, unbounded, extraordinary. Nevertheless, the everyday tasks involved in raising kids to be decent, strong, kind, loving adults can sometimes be challenging.
I remember once voicing a concern about my then-teenage son to a friend. My friend looked me in the eye and said, “You’ve given him a solid foundation full of love. He’ll be fine. He’ll figure the rest out on his own.” It was oddly comforting and terrifying at the same time. It was time for me to let him go, let him make mistakes and learn how to be an adult, let him be him.
As I think back over the past 30 years of his life, I realize that even though I’m the parent, i.e. his “first teacher”, he has taught me a lot, and for that I am truly grateful. Here’s what I’ve learned from my son:
- Look at the world from multiple perspectives. While I was pointing out the big ships moving upstream in the Savannah River, my then 2-year old son – looking in the opposite direction at the bricks on the walls beside him – tugged on my hand and said “Mom, look at the pattern the water is making on the wall.” My big picture view of the world was not what he saw. What he saw was the small, intricate movement of water drops along the bricks on the wall at his level of vision. Since then, I have watched in fascination as he photographs the world while kneeling on his knees or laying on his back or side, always seeing something from an angle different from the rest of us who remain standing, looking at eye level. Seeing and thinking from different viewpoints helps us understand and accept.
- Listen to all kinds of music. Romanian ska? Beatbox? Big band? Jazz? Rock? Japanese reggae? In my house growing up, country music was the standard, plus a little pop that snuck in on the radio once I became a teenager. As a young adult, my music tastes broadened as I went through boyfriends. But when my son started playing music in his middle school and high school bands, and later in college, a whole new world of music opened up to me. He would bring home playlists of thousands of songs, genres from around the world that I never knew existed. He’d share tracks with me to introduce me to new sounds, cultures, and feelings. I developed an open mind and a greater appreciation for music in all its forms. Music is, after all, a universal language and food for the soul.
- Show deep compassion for every living thing. I like to think this is a lesson we taught to our son, and perhaps it was to a degree. But he takes compassion to a new level. Even as a little boy, my son would gently scoop up the spider or bug that got into the house and carefully place it back outdoors. When we thought our elder cat was so sick it might be time to put her down, he drove home from college in the middle of the week to hand feed her sips of tuna-flavored water and stroke her limp body, anything to alleviate her discomfort. His compassion for people and the planet is just as deep. Seeing his compassion in action has made me examine my own ability to care deeply and show it.
- It’s OK to laugh and be silly sometimes! I’m a natural-born worrier. My mother used to call me the “worry wart” of the family. Fortunately for me, I married a guy with a great sense of humor. It’s one of the things that drew me to him – a counterbalance to my seriousness. Our son, thankfully, inherited his dad’s wit and is quick to joke and laugh and find humor in most situations. He also knows how to let his guard down and be completely crazy silly with friends. He’s taught me to take life a little less seriously sometimes.
- Sometimes the quietest people have the most strength. When he was a teen, our son made a personal decision to avoid drugs and alcohol. At 30, he’s still drug and alcohol-free. Even under relentless peer pressure from high school friends, college buddies, and adult colleagues, he has stuck to his decision. He made a lifestyle choice – for reasons of his own – to remain clean and sober for life. For a gentle-spirited, introverted kid who, like most of us, wanted to fit in and be accepted into his peer group, sticking to this decision had to be extremely hard at times. I admire that inner strength, that conviction and resolve.
Thank you, son.
Who are you thankful for today? What have you learned from him/her?