My daughter is turning four this month and it’s really given me some perspective. As a parent, your goal is to teach these little creatures to become functioning, self-sufficient, polite human beings. We teach them about how to take care of themselves, how to take care of others, how to care for the things they have, the little sponges are constantly learning from us and the world around them. But as I reflect, I realize that maybe my daughter has taught me just as many lessons as I have tried to teach her these four short years.
In honor of her fourth birthday, here are my top four lessons that my ALMOST four-year-old has taught me.
Appreciate the Simple Things
I think it can be hard to just take a step back and appreciate the little things that you love. Take for instance food. I have spent oodles of time preparing gourmet meals, cooking from scratch (confession: only a handful of times, but still . . . ) and disguising veggies perfectly in foods to try to get her to inadvertently eat some. And you know what? My daughter still just wants blueberries and a juice box. On the flip side, let’s discuss the hike we went on recently. She got a brand new Camelbak as a gift, as well as a fun, new hat. I was secretly envious – I mean, her gear was cooler than mine! However, was she focused on the seriously cool new hiking accessories I wished were my own? Nope. For her, the $.49 spray bottle from IKEA we brought along to keep her cool was the star of the show. It allowed her to water all of nature and soak in the beauty – how silly of us to forget how much children LOVE water play, and how little they prioritize some of the “things” that seem to matter so much to us! The point is appreciate the simple things in life – find joy in the mundane things or small moments that make you smile.
Be Who You Are
So right now, in the middle of summer, my daughter is completely obsessed with wearing her black dress shoes that we got her last winter. They are the cute, dressy kind with the bow on top, strap around the ankle, and perfect for holiday photos and winter dresses — nothing about them says “take me to the pool!” or, “I’d be perfect for a playdate at the zoo!” However, here we are — my daughter requests to wear them at least three times per week with her shorts and summer dresses. And you know what? I let her. I mean, why not? She isn’t hurting anyone if her shoes don’t match and the smile on her face is simply priceless. She could not care less if her shoes really were part of the “fall – winter 2015 collection” – she likes them, she likes how they make her feel, and doesn’t care what other people think! This little fashionista has helped me to learn that it’s awesome to be who you are and do what you want! After all, it’s not like her family and preschool buddies are going to suddenly start judging her as a person for her summer shoe choices.
Love Even Through the Mistakes
Trust me when I say that I have had a lot of trial and error as a parent. Since my daughter is my first, she was my “test baby.” She was the reason I started going to a play group, asking preschool questions, shopping for kiddie clothes and toys. On her favorite day at preschool, splash day, I completely forgot her swimsuit, towel, and water shoes, so she missed out on all of the fun. It was my mistake that cost her a day of fun, but she still loves me because that is what you do when you care for someone; you love them through their mistakes. If she can forgive me for her having to stay inside on a day of fun, I can let go of one or two things.
Don’t Let Anyone Dull Your Sparkle – Emotions are Good
It’s okay to be happy, sad, mad, content, scared, whatever. While everyone is wired differently, we teach that hiding things, including emotions, is not healthy. Emotional health is just as important as physical health, as you really need both to be self-functioning. My daughter is still obviously figuring out her emotions and how to properly display those feelings. But I mean, seriously, haven’t you ever wanted to just sit down and cry? Maybe the reasons are different, but the fact is, my daughter will show me when she’s angry, happy, sad, or content. As an adult, many of us could stand to do that a little better also. If you’re struggling, ask for help or take a break. If you’re happy, don’t hide it. Whether it’s over playing in the sprinklers or getting the raise you’ve been gunning for, emotion is not a weakness.
To my not so small baby girl; thank you for coming into our lives four years ago. Back in 2012, I never thought this is where we would be – that I would have a daughter who has opened my eyes to so many things. Things I wasn’t prepared for, but have made me a better person.