On my birthdays, my father would always slyly quip, “Dah tua tapi perangai macam budak-budak (You’re a year older, but you never grow up).” Every year, without fail, well into my 40s.
I used to find that annoying. I always thought that I was a very well-behaved kid growing up. Well, mostly. When it comes to my favourite food, I can be a bit irritable, but that’s a story for another blog post.
I didn’t realise what he actually meant until I had my children. There are so many things that children can teach us. We often try so hard to conform to societal expectations as adults that we have forgotten how to bring joy, love, hope and meaning to life.
These are the life lessons I have learnt from observing my children.
1. Be silly and have fun
My children delight in silliness, and they can find practically anything to be amusing. It’s incredible how they can evoke joy out of everyday things around them.
On a recent family sailing trip, my son Fayyadh, out of nowhere, proclaimed he was a monkey because, why the heck not? He jumped, climbed and swung around the boat making funny faces and woohoo noises to make us laugh our bellies off.
As adults, we take ourselves too seriously. Of course, there is a time and place to be serious, and I expect professionalism and competence at work, but we can always learn from children to inject fun and humour in mundane everyday activities. We need to embrace the silliness around us more and just have a little bit of fun.
“A day without laughter is a day wasted.”
2. Notice the little things
My daughter Mika is very attentive and observant. Once, I caught her quietly studying a very long trail of ants in our patio.
When I asked what she was doing, she told me that she was looking at the ants carrying food. Mika found it so remarkable that the ants were marching back and forth in a very orderly fashion as if there was an invisible path for them to take. Sometimes, some of them stop to have a quick chat and she wondered what they were talking to each other. I could only smile.
Most adults wouldn’t even notice little miracles like this, much less draw any inspiration from them. When I am overwhelmed by work, I try to step back and observe the little things around me, get curious and ask questions. Notice the little things and follow your curiosity.
“Notice the small things, the rewards are inversely proportional.”
3. Give everything a shot
I always encourage my children to try something new, and not be afraid if they fail. Always try again and finish what they have started. Be it sports, food, art, chores, hobbies, books, music, you name it. I feel that it is vital for children to venture out of their comfort zone, especially when they have everything that they need in life given to them. When they start something, they MUST complete it.
When my children try new things, I could see how they evaluate and manage risks, identify and solve problems, navigate social interactions and spaces. Sometimes, they fail miserably, get frustrated and become demotivated. They learn the meaning of courage, perseverance and strength from picking up new challenges at school and home.
Of course, motivating them to keep finishing what they started can be a challenge at times. So, I try to lead by example and live my own life as a series of adventures, and do it well. From singing to dancing, martial arts to cooking, scuba diving to bungee jumping, I give everything a shot. I always challenge myself and my children to try something new and don’t think much of it.
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
4. Wear your scars with pride
I have no idea who they modelled it after but when Mika or Fayyadh fell and bruised themselves, they would cry a little but never lose their sense of pride. They would gallantly show their bruises to everyone and wear their scars proudly.
An acquaintance once advised me not to share online some old photos of my adolescence in the kampung fearing that the upper echelons of KL high society would not accept me. Thank god this kampung girl didn’t heed to that advice! My humble beginnings shaped me into the person I am today, and it is something that I share with so many other people who have achieved great success in life. We all started from somewhere. Even those who were born with a silver spoon in their mouth have their own obstacles in life, too. My life experiences were like a scar, a reminder that have survived so much hardship in life and despite it, I thrived. Nothing to be ashamed.
To me, a scar is like a warrior’s badge of honour and my children inspire me to live my life like a warrior. I would never regret any of my past mistakes and failures because I learn and grow from them. Don’t we all? So don’t hide your scars, wear them with pride.
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
5. Every day is a new day
Like other brothers and sisters, Fayyadh and Mika fight sometimes but they never hold grudges. They may bicker and quarrel with each other today but kiss and make up the next day. They will be affectionate to each other and be playing together again. Every day is a new day for my little kids, and they always start fresh.
I try to emulate their positive outlook in my daily life by starting each and every day with hope and inspiration. When I wake up, I set it in my mind to explore new possibilities, new ideas and new opportunities that the day will bring.
This practice has helped me a lot to advance in my life, at work and at home. When I face a problem, no matter how big or small, I remind myself not to dwell on it. Instead, I work out what I need to do or change to get the outcome that I want. By starting fresh every day, I can stay focus on what is important to me now. I worry less about the future, and I certainly do not regret the past. And that’s the key to living in the moment.
“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.”
There are so many things adults can learn from children, and we should not underestimate their capacity to give us strength, inspiration and wisdom. I am truly grateful for my children and the lessons that have taught me.
If you are a parent, share in the comments below the life lessons you have learnt from your children.