June 26, 2007
Learning To Follow
As grown-ups, we often approach children with ideas about what we can teach them about this life to which they have so recently arrived. It’s true that we have important information to convey, but children are here to teach us just as much as we are here to teach them. They are so new to the world and far less burdened with preconceived notions about the people, situations, and objects they encounter. They do not avoid people on the basis of appearance, nor do they regard shoes as having only one function. They can be fascinated for half an hour with a pot and a lid, and they are utterly unself-conscious in their emotional expressions. They live their lives fully immersed in the present moment, seeing everything with the open-mindedness born of unknowing. This enables them to inhabit a state of spontaneity, curiosity, and pure excitement about the world that we, as adults, have a hard time accessing. Yet almost every spiritual path calls us to rediscover this way of seeing! In this sense, children are truly our gurus.
When we approach children with the awareness that they are our teachers, we automatically become more present ourselves. We have to be more present when we follow, looking and listening, responding to their lead. We don’t lapse so easily into the role of the director of activities, surrendering instead to having no agenda at all. As we allow our children to determine the flow of play, they pull us deeper into the mystery of the present moment. In this magical place, we become innocent again, not knowing what will happen next and remembering how to let go and flow.
Since we must also embody the role of loving guide to our children, they teach us how to transition gracefully from following to leading and back again. In doing so, we
learn to dance with our children in the present moment, shifting and adjusting as we direct the flow from pretending to be kittens wearing shoes on our heads to making sure everyone is fed and bathed.
Before I left the house today I caught myself saying to Rachel, "I fear the day when our son no longer finds me funny." It's an honest fear of mine, given the fact that a parent is basically a Baby Concierge employed to meet the highest standard of baby reactionary/emotional/comforted needs.
Tears? Check the three anger zones:
- How is your diaper, sir?
- Would you like me to turn down your crib for a nap, my Lord?
- Can I have the chef plate you up a green bean puree, sire?
Boredom? Time for the court jester:
Grumpy? Perform the Mosquito in the Bug Light Waltz:
So what will happen when I get the first, "Dad, stop being weird!"?
Well, my little poopy guru has taught me many things in this, my freshman year, the most important being that there is only one medium that will continue to transcend any and all speed bumps that may come as a result of developmental maturation...at least in this family: fart noises! Farts are born funny and - like wine - make you giggle more and more with age and amount.
So suffice it to say that there are constants in parenting, like the aforementioned feeding and bathing, that we will happily (and almost unconsciously) glide through...
But we will never, I repeat NEVER, make "a graceful transition" and stop pretending to be kittens wearing shoes on our heads (farting kittens, of course). Those zerbert giggles mean too much to me!