I was asked to write something wise about children, or rather something wise from children. And I thought, well, my own children are all grown now, off exploring the world with all the grace and aplomb that well-fed, well-loved children can muster as adults. I am proud of the wisdom they gave me when they were young, that they now carry out into the world, spreading it intentionally and randomly, like the dandelion fluff and seeds, they used to spread as they blew on the seeded-dandelions’ fluffy grey heads. My adulting children often call or come to see me and their father, and they manage to always blow out some of the fluff from our grey heads and it is good. So very good. My children converse with me now to teach me a thing or two, or just to share their lives, accomplishments, ideas — sometimes even to ask a bit of advice, as they would from a friend — and I feel that a person really can sometimes grow from the seed of parenthood into a flowering friendship. When my children are able to talk to me both as mother and friend, I feel something of me blown out and gone, like fluff, ready to grow something new, somewhere else inside me, or perhaps, something new out in the world; but I also feel something of me grow even deeper roots; learning from my own children makes something take root inside my life as a human being, a thing that is permanent, eternal, never-changing-always-changing, as the love of a parent, or the love of a child, always is.
Imparted wisdom is like a seed, after all; you share it, plant it, but it only grows if the soil is fertile and well-tended and nurtured. Parenting is a bit hit or miss, in terms of imparting wisdom and tending the soil of our children, but most of us try to do our best and then pray or wish on a star or a wishbone or a ladybug or a wish-flower, that somehow the good of our parenting will stick and that the bad will wash away from our children like dirt down a bathtub drain, after a day of hard play. We also have to hope and pray that even some of our mistakes or bad stuff, will grow into something our children don’t nurture as weeds, but will turn into something beautiful like dandelions.
I have written recently of “my” little wee birds at the bird feeder, and how much my time with them teaches me. And this morning, I was meditating on the birds again, and how much I love just sitting and looking at them and listening to them coo and sing and squawk, and I looked over at the array of pictures I keep on a little table, to one side of the big, front-room window I gaze out of. I looked at pictures of my children and the faces and bodies, and hair and clothes styles, from various ages of those dear children once mine; once my chicks, but flown the coop and nesting and soaring elsewhere. I remembered how privileged I was back when they were young to be at home with them. I remembered my four children when we were young, and their loud squawking games outside, and their quiet, cooing games inside in the hallways and on stair landings, and their songs and stories sung or made-up together in the labyrinths of their play-times, and prayers and songs and stories before dream-time at night, and the family road-trips with squabbling and singing in the back of the minivan, and trips to the library and nursing home, and grocery and toy store, and the dinners around the big table and the picnics in parks, and the bedtimes as we snuggled in a big pile, reading or singing, falling asleep like a floating pod of sea otters, drifting off to sleep in our big family bed. And I love to remember all the things we did together, but also all the things I didn’t do but was just able to be.
And I remembered how much I once loved, sitting somewhere in the next room, or nearby but off to one side, maybe doing “parent-stuff”, or guarding over them like the mother hen I was, and being there but slightly removed from their circle of activity, and yet, aware of them, watchful, observant, in tune with their tuneful voices, in my silent acquiescence, and oh, so very present and sometimes needed as referee or boo-boo fixer or to hear something “cool” or funny one of them just said or to see something amazing one had just discovered or to sometimes dry some tears because something incredible they had just made got broken. But mostly, as I thought about children and wisdom, I was reliving some memories of just being with them, doing nothing and being — Just me, with just them, just me alone but not at all alone, listening to and watching my children.
I remembered how almost excruciatingly delightful my whole being felt just to be in the same space as them. I remembered how my heart felt full to overflowing, just to watch over them, and to observe not just their accomplishments in crayon or creative imaginative role playing or the structures they built out of sticks and paper and leaves and tin foil and boxes and a huge belief in their own abilities to create; but I also remembered how incredible it felt to me to just look at a little arm covered in small-person peach- fuzz and often a good bit of dirt or mud; how lovely to see a tangled mass of hair fall over a face bent over a picture book, how awe-inspiring to watch tiny toes wiggle, or mouths open wide with cookie crumbs and laughter spilling out, or the absolute heavy stillness of a child who falls asleep in one’s arms. How glorious it was to hear the small shrieks of delight or giggles of shared “secrets” that of course no adults no matter how close could hear. How awesome even the arguments of dissent over what to play or how to play it were, as they began to navigate how to discuss and how to stand up for what they believed in or how to learn the art of compromise (“Okay, you can go first THIS time, but next time…”); and how I might even over-hear them apologize, and say “I’m sorry”, and how happy I was if they did, because it is so much harder to learn how to say you are sorry when you become an adult. Coos and squawks, laughter and imagination, boo-boos easy to fix, and tears that quickly dry, and the play and hard work of children growing-up, and I, having the best seat in the house — an audience of one mom, listening, watching, loving, learning, becoming more wise.
I think about all the things I loved not about “doing a mom” but about being a mom. Yes, I remember sadly all the things I messed up horribly and did wrong and can apologize for now, but can’t undo. And I wish I could have do-overs on it all, to live more fully all the good, and to at least get a bit of a better score on all the tests I failed. But the bottom line as I sit and remember? — -
I am privileged beyond belief to have within my memory, and within the depths of my heart and soul and mind, the visions and sounds and feels and feelings of all of it — all the fun, all the tears, all the laughter, all the fears, all of those days and nights of living with and loving with children. But the truth is, no one has to be a parent to learn from the wisdom of children — we just have to observe and listen to them and try to be more like them.
What my children taught me, among so many, many other things, but which seems so pertinent to our lives today in 2020, perhaps as never before since we were young because of, well, just because of everything; one very wise thing my children taught me was how full and amazing life can be if we only learn to look and to listen — to everything around us and to each other.
To become like a child, is to believe that love can turn weeds into wish flowers. To find the wisdom of children is to know that being is always more important and fulfilling than doing.
And as we all grow up and hopefully want to become better adults, maybe we all need to see ourselves as imperfect, but loving parents and to learn to delight in how beautiful the world and the people in it are, and then we can choose to take care of the world by truly listening to its needs and when it is at play and by watching-over each other.
We don’t have to be parents to be taught the wisdom of children, because we were all once children ourselves. Our child-like selves have much to teach us, if we will look at the world and each other with the eyes of the children we once all were. But today as I get ready to go play and splash in the soapy water of dirty dishes, and as I zoom around the house pretending to be a superhero, or I imagine what it would be like to fly like a bird as I walk to the grocery, and as I prepare tea for my silver-headed husband and listen — really listen — to him because there is so much to learn when adults talk; and as I cry hard with big tears and an ugly mouth screwed-up, over the unfairness of the games of cheaters and the meanness of bullies and over my own failings because life’s not fair and it hurts to get something wrong; and as I laugh loud and long at a joke I once heard; and as I keep a secret in my heart that I won’t tell anyone cross-my-fingers-hope-to-die-stick-a-needle-in-my-eye; and maybe as I take a nap after reading a good book, or as I just sit and stare at stuff cuz there’s nothing to do; or I just listen to the tick-tock of the clock of time gone-by and memories of lives shared — as I do my day, and live my life, I will try harder and let go more easily in order to let the wisdom of my childhood rise up in my soul and I will just be with me. I will wish on stars, and ladybugs, and wish-flowers, that the world and I and my husband and of course, my best teachers of all who were and are now my very own children, will keep growing like seeds, learning like children, and loving like good parents. I will wish on the wish-flowers of my very best hopes that my children will take more, have more time to just be — listening, observing, and loving what is right there in the same space they are, things that are not them but are with them and that they will know, as every child of the world should know, that they are never alone and they are dearly loved.
I will send seeds of wishes into the world with the hope and prayer that we will all know that we are all beloved children with much to learn, and much to teach, and much to love.
Today’s Wise Lesson from my children, Justine, Clarissa, Verity, and Gordon –
Listen and be filled. Observe and be at peace. Take in to your true self, that which is not you, but is still a part of you, and take care of it and tend it with hope and joy. And let the seeds of love and wisdom, planted in the hearts and souls and minds of all children, just as the seeds of the wish-flower do, go out from you and into the world so that all may flourish and grow and be beautiful.