How Children Truly Are Our Greatest Teachers – Originally appeared in Thrive Global

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I have a very easy tell when I am nervous, excited or scared, I stutter. From the moment my wife told me that she was pregnant, right up until the birth of our son, it was not very difficult to figure out how I was handling it, I was in full-out machine-gun mode.

Things got so bad that when my wifes water broke at 6am, she grabbed a book, headed to the sofa, and let me sleep till 9:30am, because, and I quote, “I was going to have a long day at the hospital”. If you did not get a chance to read my last article for Thought Catalog about my wife being my ultimate “life hack”, that sentence about sums it up. She is amazing, but I left out one very important, albeit small detail that deserves some attention: our little man.

There were multiple reasons that contributed to the return of my speech impediment during this time, many of them selfish, but deep down the underlying factor was that I was terrified about what type of influence I would have on my son. What I failed to consider was the type of influence he was going to have over me.

Since that day, nearly two and a half years ago, my “little man” has improved every aspect of my life. Below are just five of the ways in which he has done it.

ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES:
One of the most astonishing things that I have observed as a parent is my sons ability to rebound. One minute he can be drowning in a pool of tears, and the next he is laughing uncontrollably at something nearby that amuses him. As adults we know that bad things are going to happen, but we often forget that it is our decision how long we are going to allow them to sit and stir. In his own way, but just being him, my son has taught me that it is OK to cry, but only as long as you can find a reason to laugh soon after.

ALWAYS KEEP LEARNING:
A few nights ago I was laying next to my little man as he was sleeping, and just as I was about to fade off myself, I heard him say something that resembled the word “purple”. A few minutes later, “green”. Then a few minutes later….”blue”. Then he laughed and started snoring again. Even in his sleep he is trying to learn and in the process he has motivated me to be more curious also. All parents are teachers, but the beauty of kids is that they make adults want to be students again as well.

STOP TIME TRAVELLING & LIVE IN THE PRESENT:
I have a bad habit in that I am a bit of a “time-traveller”, as I have a tendency to think about the past and worry about the future too much, instead of being present and enjoying the moment. With my son there is absolutely no room for this. He can smell a fraud a mile away, and either I am all-in with him or else he makes it pretty clear (and like most kids he can be pretty persistent in doing this). By teaching me the power of playing, and forcing me to snap back to reality he has taught me that a string of “small wins” during the day, more often than not, beat one “big win”.

TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF HAS TO COME FIRST:
Prior to having a child, as soon as my time began to be spread pretty thin, exercising and eating well would be the first things to go. The very things that I should have focused on to help me deal with the extra stress, I disregarded and as a result the stress would compound. It took an eight pound ball of responsibility for me to realise that I am not doing anyone any good, if I am not putting my own well-being first. 30 minutes of exercise and starting the day off with an apple, instead of a cookie, is often times the difference between getting my work done or letting it pile-up, reading my son a story or turning on the TV, being patient with my wife or being snippy. My son has taught me that if you make your own health a priority, everything else becomes so much easier.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING A POSITIVE INFLUENCE ON SOMEONE:
Children have this funny way of making us be better people, and not just with them, but with everyone. I used to get so caught up with my own problems that I did not take the time to get involved in the things that were important to the people around me, and think of ways that I could offer to help. My son has made me realize the power each of us has to be a positive influence on other human beings, and in his own way, he has motivated me to not stop with him.

Time and time again I am reminded that the things that scare me the most, end up teaching me the greatest lessons. Life changes, but it is up to us whether we change with it. My wife and our “little man” taught me that.

Thank You Little One & Little Two.

Please keep changing.

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