Important Lessons We Need to Learn From Our Children

As a yoga teachter, I'm used to giving classes and having people look to me for physical or emotional guidance. The same goes for my familly, I'm used to being the one teaching my children about life and living. You wouldn’t believe the questions I’ve had to answer for my kids. At times, I feel like a walking search engine.

Just the other day as we were driving home, my son was gazing out the car window. He seemed to be daydreaming because he didn’t even look up when I called his name a few times.

After a few minutes, he pointed at a meadow we were passing and asked, “mom, do you think there are dinosaurs buried there?”

Having a son, I’ve acquired some basic knowledge about dinosaurs over the years.  

So very wisely I answered him, “I don’t think so honey, most of them have already been found”

My son wasn’t satisfied with this answer.

“How do you know that?” he asked me. “Maybe if I start digging I’ll find a big one.”

Now at this point, I suppose I should’ve have agreed and said he'd find one if he dug deep enough. Instead, I said “If there is one, it’s buried so deep that you probably won’t find it”

Huge mistake.

A flood of questions came pouring out of my son.

 “How come they’re so deep? What do you mean they’ve been in there for millions of years? What’s extinct? Where exactly did dinosaurs come from?”

Next thing I knew I spent the last hour of our drive talking about the big bang theory, evolution, and the Ice Age.

Then there are days when my son is constantly asking me to translate words to another language. He’ll point at something, demand the English translation and will repeat the word over and over again. Last week I repeated the words ‘pie’ and ‘pastry’ about three hundred times until we switched over to the French word for pie (which, much to his dismay, I didn’t know.)

I always considered myself to be “the Teacher,” but recently my son and I somehow switched roles.

We were building a lego house together. As I kept stacking the little lego bricks, my son kept putting the wrong blocks on the little lego house we were building. They didn’t align, match and it certainly did not make a lego house. So every time he put a block on, I adjusted it to fit the design of the “house.” After about five adjustments, my son got frustrated and pushed my hand aside.

“What are you doing?” he asked. “This block needs to go here!”

“Weren’t we building a house?”

“No mom, it’s a spaceship!” he told me. Excusing myself, I went back to the legos, building a spaceship this time.

Again my son piled up the wrong blocks, and the wings broke off. Now Í started to get annoyed.

“Weren’t we building a spaceship? ” I asked.

My son responded, “Can’t you see this looks like a bike factory?!”

As I looked at the construction, I could see that he was right. I had been so focused on building a house or a spaceship, that I forgot to look at the process. I was so fixed on the right outcome, that I didn’t see the possibilities of what the result could be as we were building this structure. In a world where we are constantly asked to pursue results and achieve the highest goals, we tend to forget to enjoy the process.

My son and daughter however, do not have a fixed idea of what the world should be like. They’ll draw a horse and the next minute, it’s a sun. Every time I ask them what they are drawing, they tell me that they’re not sure. They’ll look for an answer only because I’m expecting one.

Perhaps they don’t know what they’re drawing because they are not driven by the results. They don’t sit down and decide “I will now draw a horse”, they just put the pen to paper and draw whatever comes to mind, to have fun.

So I stopped asking them questions. I didn’t ask them what they were drawing, what they were building or what the end result was going to be. I simply observed and listened to them explain what it was afterwards.

From this simple exchange with my son, I decided to adapt his approach in other aspects of my life. I stopped asking what a “perfect house” should look like and what a “perfect mom” should be. Instead I let the process unfold and see the result afterwards.

This is difficult because I have some pretty clear ideas of what my life should be. Often times if I don’t live up to my own standards, I become very stern and upset with myself. But watching my kids taught me valuable lessons about letting go of obsessing over the end results and enjoying the process. Every outcome will be good, because the journey towards it was rewarding in itself.

A sloppy birthday cake that we made together with joy and laughter is way more delicious than the ones I used to make with the utmost precision. Yes, perhaps it may have looked perfect and it was Pinterest worthy. But they were the result of a frustrating afternoon with me telling my kids “no” a hundred times because I didn’t want them to mix the pink icing with the green. Where’s the fun in that? Instead, by enjoying the process, I get to make happy memories of my daughter being up to her ears in green frosting!

I did get afraid, however, that if I let go of my expectations and end results, I would become satisfied with marginal results and live a life in mediocracy. However, I found the opposite to be true.  The more I enjoyed myself through the process, the more I focused on doing the best I could and being the best I could be. I was more focused on finding love and joy for my life through the process. And it turns out, love and joy creates the best possible results.

Instead of being motivated by external factors and the end results, I found motivation deep down inside myself. Suddenly little tasks that always bugged me before were fun to do, because I started to enjoy myself more. I didn’t sigh at the piles of laundry I had to fold, and I didn’t have a perfect picture of neat stacks of t-shirts in my mind. I started to take pleasure in every fold, felt the difference in textures, experimented with fun ways to fold a sweater and before I knew it, all the laundry was gone and I actually felt sorry that there wasn’t more to fold.

So here’s the bottom line. Let’s stop focusing on results. Let’s stop creating a picture in our minds and thinking that we’ll only be happy when we have that achieved result.

Start being happy right here, right now, and enjoy the process. Do yourself a favor and start thinking with a childlike mind--you might be surprised at what you will learn along the way!

Written By: Alyssa Demkes
Dutch girl Alyssa is a yoga instructor and a mother of two beautiful children. She also enjoys reading english classics and philosophy books. (You’ll often find her in dusty old bookstores) If she’s not there, she’s probably in the kitchen preparing healthy and delicious food for her family. For Alyssa, perfect happiness is sharing a home cooked meal with her loved ones. She shares her discoveries and thoughts on her personal blog and is happy to also share the love via Happygirl Yoga.