Casey Anne and her three siblings put every human excrement imaginable on my narcissism and flushed it all down the toilet. She forced me to think about someone else besides me, and to put me second. Ironically, that became a habit. A decade later, I had to resurrect my needs from the toilet and take better care of me.
My children taught me how to be interrupted and still get something done — in addition to taking care of them. The hardest jobs are when you’re constantly interrupted — like secretaries, teachers, nurses and mothers.
Bob and I bought a house that had been neglected when the children were 4, 2 and 6 months old. The 35 windows were so gray with dirt that you couldn’t tell the weather outside. Every day for a month, I plopped them in front of Sesame Street and washed three windows until chaos erupted and I surrendered — another lesson from three children born in three-and-a-half years.
The most valuable lesson was patience, to slow down to their pace, to revel in the present moment. To appreciate humongous earth movers and construction sites; wild animals like squirrels, ants and robins; the wonder of a train station or airport.
Bob and I spent more than a decade giving the kids a nightly bath, reading a book, singing a song and tucking them in. It was like a meditation, and it worked, because they stayed in bed and went to sleep early. It bonded us for life.
In a lecture on Ted Talks, journalist Carl Honore said that reading a bedtime story to his son taught him to slow down his hectic life. It inspired Honore to write a book “In Praise of Slowness,” a valuable lesson to most 21st century Americans.
Now in their 20s, my “children” continue to teach me different lessons about relationships, technology and life. They’ve returned the favor — I was their most important teacher because humans learn more in the first four years than they do for the rest of their lives.
When my children were little, they patiently allowed me to make the same mistake, over and over, until I figured out to do something different. Nowadays, they could have more patience now with their ol’ Mom, but they haven’t had any children to teach them — yet.
What have your children taught you?