Every morning my 3 year old wakes up and as soon as you go into his room he says with a big grin and real excitement in his voice, “I woke up!”. It’s infectious. He’s done sleeping. He’s up and he’s raring to go. He’s so excited about what the day holds and he wants to get on with it, right away. Every day is an adventure to a 3 year old and it rubs off on me. I choose to see every day as a new and exciting adventure.
My children don’t always do what they’re told. Sometimes they don’t hear; sometimes they just chose not to listen; and sometimes they listen, hear and choose to ignore me anyway. But they do find it very easy to copy me. They see me doing something and they assume that’s what you should do. They see me drive the car; they want to drive the car. They see me sit on the step and put my shoes on; they come and sit next to me with their shoes in hand, wanting help to put them on. Sometimes they even put MY shoes on and wonder round the house! I tell them not to shout around the house, but then I shout up the stairs to tell them dinner’s ready, so that’s what they learn – to shout! They want to do what I’m doing not necessarily what I’m saying. My actions speak louder than my words and I have to work hard to make sure my actions match my words.
Sometimes I’m stunned at how daft my children can seem, until I realise that the issue is with the way I speak to them. Sometimes I would give them instructions and they would sort of follow them, but not really do what I asked. If they were getting a little excitable, I would say something like, “You three need to go and play in your rooms”, meaning each to his own rooms. However, they would all trudge upstairs and carry on the mayhem together in one of their bedrooms, until I had to go and explain exactly what I meant, while trying not to show how exasperated I was. Then I learnt to be really clear about what I expected of them. You see good communication is about making sure that the recipient has fully understood what you meant, not just that they have heard what you’ve said.
My children get grumpy and short tempered towards the end of the day, especially if we’ve been out for a long day. They get tired and it affects how they cope with things. But if I ever tell them they’re tired or suggest it might be bedtime, they disagree emphatically. They refuse to accept they’re tired! (They still go to bed when I think they’re tired, even though they may disagree!) What I’m starting to learn, is that I’m just the same. I may not think I’m tired, but I start to lose patience with people a little too easily. I start to be a little short with people when I talk to them. I don’t necessarily realise it, but I need rest, so I’m learning to take breaks when I spot the signs.
Kids are blunt and they have a habit of putting their finger on truth with a real insightfulness. My wife and I sometimes discipline our children by making them sit on the stairs, if we want them to learn not to do something. This might happen if they say words that we want to discourage them using (like calling someone stupid). On occasion however, I may slip up and use one of the words that I’ve told them they shouldn’t use. They are very quick to pick up on it and dish out the same discipline to me. It keeps me humble and helps me to remember that I’m still learning too.
My three year old doesn’t think about tomorrow. It’s too far away. He understands tomorrow and he knows that there may be important stuff happening tomorrow, like grandparents visiting or trips out planned, but he rarely dwells on it for more than a few minutes, because as far as he’s concerned they’s plenty to do today. And he’s right. Today has enough to worry about, so we can leave tomorrows worries until then.
I’m always amazed at the silly things that my kids get upset or angry about. And then confused I watch as things I thought they would be upset about just wash over them. I tell them they have to eat their veg and they cry uncontrollably for 20 minutes. They fall while running and skin their knee and just jump up, brush themselves off and keep running. I’ve learnt that everything is emotional to someone and I’ll probably never understand why. However, armed with that knowledge I can learn to deal with people with a little more grace.
When you have kids, in some way you get to do your own childhood over again. You can play Pooh Sticks, do roly-polys down hills, make dens and climb trees again. And I don’t care how old you are climbing trees is just great fun!