I Didn't Know
There are so many things in life that I just didn't know, or realize, or fully take to heart. Not until I heard it come out of the mouth of a child, anyway. And most of them, I have to say, I should have known, and some I felt, but never put into words...
"Let me tell my own story. You tell yours. It's not polite to tell someone else's story." said a five-year-old to an older brother, who was "helping" her tell her story.
Those words stayed with me, whispering themselves into my ear for days. Yes - let me tell my own story. Let me own it - good and bad. Let me tell it to you from my point of view, after all, it is my story. And yes, you tell your story, too. The good and bad. I want to hear. Your story is valuable, just as you are. And no, it's not polite to tell someone else's story. Just as one cannot know what story is going to come out of a five-year-old's mouth, one cannot truly know another's story. We can only let them tell it. But it's only their point of view, you say? Well, isn't your story your point of view as well? Is your story and the way you tell it not formed by your entire life, your experiences, your brain chemistry, your programming? Just as I could not accurately tell your story, you cannot accurately tell mine, not having been in my shoes, or my wheelchair, or my body, or my mind.
"Don't just listen with your ears, listen with your silence and your heart." said by a seven-year-old who struggles to find his own internal silence, and therefore knows its value.
To truly listen to someone, to really hear what they're saying, you need silence. Not external silence, but internal. You cannot listen to someone if you are forming your own opinions, thoughts, replies, or stories while they are speaking. You cannot accurately hear what someone is saying if you don't open your heart to where they are coming from, letting go of your own suppositions, taking what they're saying without judgement, without placing value, without putting yourself in their place.
"It's ok not to be ok." said a wise almost-teenager who understands his mother's struggles all too well and uses her own words to comfort her, giving her permission to curl up in bed and let it all out, as she's done for him countless times.
I know this, but sometimes don't know it - don't own my own words. It is ok to not be ok. What a stagnant life we'd lead if everything was peachy all the time, if we were happy all the time. Growth comes from struggle, as do tears and frustrations and a need to recognize within ourselves when things are not ok. It is in these times when we need to not be ok - to sit with this not-ok-ness, listening to what it has to tell us, and moving on in the direction of what is right and good and holy.
"Some days are good for nothing, in which I mean good for doing nothing. Like nothing that requires energy or thought. Like video games. Lots and lots of video games." said by a teenager who, well, thinks like a teenager, at least some of the time.
But he does have a point. Some days are good for doing nothing. For not having schedules or goals or to-do lists. For just lounging and reading and watching silly things and doing sillier things and just being. The thing about these days is that they are vital to our existence, especially in this world of go-go-go, do-be-accomplish. It is in these slow-down, good-for-nothing days that we can be still enough to just be, quiet enough to listen to our hearts, calm enough to let the precious moments of connection with our selves and with those around us speak volumes to our souls.
"Sometimes you just have to go with what feels right and see if everything works out. Even if it doesn't turn out as planned, it's still usually great anyway." said an almost-eleven year old, full of moxie, about baking, but also about life.
In the same way that she delves into gluten-free baking with joy and abandon, she approaches life. She is fearless in her baking experiments, sure that even should the end result not be as she envisioned, it will still be a delight to the palate. Life, it seems, should be viewed the same way. It may not turn out as expected, but it can still be wonderful nonetheless. If psoriatic arthritis taught me one thing, it's that things work out for the best if we let them. If there's one thing this amazing young woman has taught me, it's that I should not only enjoy whatever the journey has to offer along the way, but should move forward in wondrous expectation of brilliant things to come.
What has your child taught you, that you didn't know?