My daughter’s first spoken word was “shit”. I’m not even remotely joking. She was doing something cute and my wife sent me running upstairs to get the camera. At the top of the stairs I hear from below, “Never mind, she stopped doing it.” I let the expletive slip out and within seconds of the word leaving my mouth from downstairs I hear this cute little baby voice say, “shit”. That pretty much spoiled my chances at the 2002 Parent of the Year award. Her next word a day or two later was “da da”, but it was too late, “shit” would have to go in the books as my first born child’s first word.
She was, of course, just mimicking what she heard me say, but as a parent something like this does make you suddenly very aware that those little ears hear and those little eyes see EVERYTHING. Offspring from all sorts of life learn from their parents. It’s how the world works for many things. You are born (or hatched) and your mom or dad (or both) teach you what you need to know to survive. You pick up a bunch of other stuff too, just by interacting with your environment in general, but you’ll get a ton from your parents whether you like it or not. Sometimes though, the kids will show the old folks a thing or two.
After the big earthquake and tsunami in Japan my daughter and her friends really wanted to help out. The outpouring of compassion they showed was on its own something to be really proud of, but they took it one step further. They started making beaded bracelets and selling them to their friends’ parents for a buck a piece. Some people started donating more than a dollar, and one even sold for $20 on its own. Before they knew it there were school lunch hours set aside for more kids to make more bracelets. They raised over $1000 that they sent to the Red Cross. Did I mention these kids were only 8 years old?
Lesson #1 that kids can teach adults:
I was in the kitchen the other day and my second child (a 5 year old boy) was sitting at the breakfast bar waiting for me to get him going on his juice and cereal. I noticed that when I was preparing everything that his eyes were fixed on my every move. I had to open the new juice, pour it, open the vitamins and take one out, open a new box of cereal, open the inside bag, pour the cereal, close the box, and then put it all away. Not until everything was back in its place did he stop watching me and start eating breakfast. It dawned on me right at that moment that the little bugger was learning. Simply by paying attention he had just learned how to do something. My bet is he picked up a better way to open the box of cereal so he doesn’t rip the tab off every time or tear a giant hole in the inside bag spilling Corn Flakes everywhere.
Lesson #2 that kids can teach adults:
If you shut up and pay attention you just might learn something.
Unfortunately many adults are a lot harder to teach than most kids. Adults come with their own biases and agendas (hidden or otherwise) and tend to take a different approach as a result. Which is really too bad, because we are usually the ones who have the most to learn.