Two things children have that adults have lost

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As the mother of a three-year-old, I am keenly aware of the challenges that come with helping a toddler navigate a world which looks much different in her eyes than from my perspective. Tantrums, check. Stubborn comments, check. Odd requests to sleep with a flashlight or measuring tape? Double check. She asks a lot of questions and comes to many conclusions which, at the time, usually don’t seem to make much sense.

She’s curious and asks seemingly random questions with no real concrete answer or for no particular reason.

While recently helping her a public restroom, she suddenly looked at me with her bright blue eyes and stopped.

“Mommy, who painted your eyes green?”

I answered, but was intrigued by her question and began paying more attention to her inquisitiveness.

“Why are the cars stopping?”

“What is that lady’s name?”

“How does he do that?”

I usually have an answer, but her questions always catch me off guard.

Why?

Our daughter has a green headband she’s had for more than a year. The hair piece is in rough shape, but still sports two silver antenna-like springs on top with a sparkling four-leaf clover attached on each side. The headband is infamous in our household for making its way into restaurants, soaking in the bathtub and resting on my daughter’s head during naptime. She proudly wears the green headband wherever she deems appropriate, with its latest appearance at our church waving in the air as my daughter performed her own interpretive dance from within the congregation.

Children her age don’t seem to worry about public embarrassment or have a fear of judgment from others. They are innocent and authentic. They are genuine, finding ways to move forward in their own way without hesitation.

Why?

I recently took my daughters – ages 3 and 10 months – with me on an airplane trip. I hate flying, but am finding I prefer to fly with our three-year-old. She has no concerns about the plane crashing or how long the flight will take. She thinks of the ride as an adventure and parallels turbulence with experiences she’s had in a bouncy house. We passed the time playing hide-and-seek with flight attendants; they didn’t know we were playing, but she didn’t care.

While parenting her can be challenging, I am inspired by our three-year-old’s unique view of the world. She uses two things regularly that, unfortunately, I find, we as adults, too often ignore: innocence and curiosity. We fear exhibiting innocence is the equivalent of being naïve. And, we think being curious means we are behind.

Somehow, as we age, we start becoming less innocent and more jaded; less curious and more stuck in our ways. It’s as if we are born with a spiral of confidence, goodwill and authenticity, but throughout the years and experiences, slowly unravel.

We accept things as they are and stop believing in change. We continue comparing ourselves to others and rely on faulty excuses to keep us going.

But, why?

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Blowing out quarter-century candles

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Birthdays are a good reminder of time and the realization of how fast hours, days and years pass by without warning. The saying “time flies” is not anything new, but it’s the truth.

I recently celebrated my 25th birthday. During a phone call with my Dad that morning, he made sure to remind me that any day after my birthday would be “sliding down the hill to thirty.” What happened to a fatherly rendition of singing happy birthday in front of a well-lit cake?

You know what though? He’s right. I’m no longer in the twenty fifth year of my life. I’ve shut the door on childhood, teenage rebellion and college living and have entered the next quarter-century of experiences, pitfalls, challenges, friendships and celebrations. As I sat down that evening feeling more exhausted than at any previous birthdays, my mind swirled with memories of the past year.

My daughter and I almost a year ago

Since becoming a parent, I’ve promised myself to jot down stories, frustrations and insightful memories to share with my children when they are older. This was no exception. On the back of my daughter’s daycare newsletter, I began scribbling – in no particular order – the lessons I have learned during the past year leading up to turning twenty-five.

  1. Traveling 13 hours with a tired husband, two dogs and baby to see family, even if in a few hours notice, is well worth the trip.
  2. The southern translation of passing gas is “poot”.
  3. Kickball is more than just a game played in gym class. There are leagues of teams playing eight-week seasons, complete with playoffs and concession stands.
  4. Being a parent is the most rewarding, complicated and fun profession out there.
  5. It is possible to make edible hard-boiled eggs in the oven.
  6. Spending Christmas without family (or snow!) is as difficult as it sounds.
  7. Some farmer’s markets sell “throw away” peaches at a discount; all you have to do is ask.
  8. Potty training is more difficult than it sounds.
  9. Andy Griffith grew up in Mt. Airy, N.C.
  10. Every pregnancy is different.
  11. Contrary to the way I was raised, many children will never known what it’s like to eat food out of your own garden.
  12. Ponytails can be fashionable.
  13. Babies grow way too fast.
  14. Meeting new friends without comparing them to others is impossible.
  15. There are never enough photos.
  16. Growing grass is similar to spending your paycheck on clothes without bringing anything home.
  17. It’s important to donate – anything.
  18. A routine drive to work and daycare can be a good opportunity for a toddler to learn colors of cars.
  19. If accidentally locked in a pantry, my Border Collie will make a mess.
  20. It’s possible to lose sleep excited for someone else.
  21. Two-year olds are smarter than people give them credit for.
  22. My husband needs to throw away fraying shirts he still has from high school.
  23. Waking up thirty minutes early to sit in peace before the day begins makes a world of difference.
  24. There is nothing like Michigan in the Fall.
  25. Strangers will surprise you, in more ways than one.

Reflecting on the last year of life has helped me appreciate the knowledge we learn from each other. I’m ready to start the next quarter-century full of experiences and lessons, but think it’s best I light the candles before cutting into the cake.