My oldest child turned 6 yesterday. It was a fun day filled with balloons, Star Wars, apple pie, and love. I’ve written before about how birthdays can be a little tough for me, but his day provided a lot of reflection. My best friend pointed out that my oldest’s birthday is also my parenting anniversary, and that got me thinking. My earliest parenting days seem very far away. I’m embarrassed by some of the things I did (calling the pediatrician during his dinnertime because Jackson had a string in his eye?!), but proud of some things, too.
People tell you it goes by fast, and it actually feels like that for the first time. The past 6 years have been a blur, spotted with moments I’ll never forget. Somehow I’ve picked up lessons along the ride. Here are 6 things I’ve learned from my 6 year old–
1) Have a passion. Most people call Jackson smart. And it’s true, he is a cerebral person with an unbelievable memory. But his greatest gift is his passion to learn things. He devours biographies of famous men and women. He voraciously reads maps of places near and far. He follows the stats of his favorite sports teams so that he understands their wins and losses. He talks about his passions in a way that makes you believe they are as great as he thinks. Heck, he got me to watch NASCAR.
2)It’s ok to be late sometimes. Type A me doesn’t like to be late. I’m often guilty of pushing the kids out the door to try to get to jiujitsu, the chiropractor, the grocery store, a playdate. Jackson stopped me last week when he said, “it’s ok if we are late. It’s not like we have to do push ups or anything.” He’s right.
3) Embrace the surprises. This kid loves a surprise. I’ve always liked planning. It’s no mystery if you know us that Jackson himself was a surprise, so maybe it is built into him. But still, I tried to plan everything with him until he was 5. Then he and my husband planned a day of surprises for me, and it was awesome. Even if I’m still mostly a planner, I’m learning to appreciate a surprise. Or at least roll with it.
4) Own who you are. Jackson’s friends don’t read the box scores. They are pretty much over their “dinosaur phase.” They don’t talk about Pennies from Heaven, or how God put a new rock in our yard. I’ve watched people react to Jackson for years with a mixture of confusion and awe. He gets along better with people 2 and 3 times his age than his peers. But he has never even thought about changing. It’s a gift to be so young, so confident, and so sure of yourself. It’s a constant reminder to me that it’s ok to be myself.
5) Follow your Gut.When Jackson was 5 months old he stopped breathing. We brought him to the hospital, and after a week of tests they sent us home. They thought I was crazy, but I just knew something was wrong in my gut. Then it happened again when he was 7 months old. This time I wouldn’t leave the hospital until they put him on an apnea monitor. He had 67 apneas in one night. He stopped breathing 67 times! Following my gut has been central to my parenting. It made me call Early Intervention when my gut told me something was up with Logan. It made me bring Ava to the doctor’s when she had really red eyes (turned out to be a temporary autoimmune issue). Follow that voice inside you.
6) Stay Silly. In general, Jackson’s a fairly serious kid. Not so surprising as I am a pretty serious person, too. So it brings me complete and utter joy when he does something like insist on wearing his 2 year old Halloween costume around on a hot summer’s day. Or act as commentator to a fictional football game between two tiny colleges. Or sing to his sister in a “foreign language.” These are rare moments. They remind me that we all have so many facets.
I could have listed so many more things he has taught me, these just seem “right” today. What have your kids taught you? What have your own parents admitted to learning from you? I bet if you think about it, it’s plenty.