Grandchildren Teachers

I confess, I thought I would be the teacher when it came to interacting with my grandchildren. But spending time with them has enlightened me and I have come to realize it is I who have much to learn from them.

Recently, my youngest granddaughter, Tessa, who is about to turn four, and I were in my basement and about to begin painting. My wife had purchased three wooden crabs and a variety pack of acrylic paints. Tessa had her smock on and was ready to go, claiming two of the three crabs and placing them in front of herself. We opened all of the paints and started in. She dipped her brush in and began spreading paint all over her crabs.

I selected my colors and planned out which color would go where and started carefully painting.

Tessa looked down at my crab, then up at me, and with lightning speed swiped her orange paint laden brush across my crab’s face and laughed. I was totally surprised. Then she took her blue paintbrush and did the same thing. She starred up at me to see what I would do.

I knew in that instant that it would matter a great deal to her what action I chose, so I laughed ‘with’ her and told her how beautiful my crab now looked.

I know that three- and four-year-old’s think that everything is theirs and that they are free to explore their world in any way they choose. What a valuable lesson for me to remember. I can shift my view of confined expectations and limited choices and encourage myself to expand and explore and have FUN.

When my grandson Evan, who was three years old at the time, and I were in the car together on one of our outings, he called to me from the backseat, “Bompa (his pet name for me), could you put two hands on the steering wheel, you’re making me nervous.”

I swear it’s true, even at three, he was a back-seat driver.

I was taken aback by his comment. Really?

As I thought about it, it became apparent to me that not only was he in touch with his feelings, but he was also able to express them openly and honestly. What a terrific role model for me.

I assured him I would do better and grabbed the steering wheel with both hands. This apparently pleased him because I could hear his little voice saying, “that’s better.”

Because of this simple gesture on his part, I’ve tried to pay attention to my actions and how they could be affecting him. And I’ve tried to be more honest with myself about what I’m feeling and share it with others, so they know and don’t have to guess why I’m doing the things I do or acting in a certain way.

After retiring I was able to assist with babysitting our oldest granddaughter, Kirsten, who was almost four at the time. She would come to our house and stay for the day until her mom picked her up after work.

I decided that Kirsten and I would embark on grand adventures together and set aside an empty journal to keep track of the things that we did. I told her we could do any project she wanted and if I didn’t have the right materials, we’d go to the store and get them.

One of our first experiences was making soft pretzels from a box mix and having them for a ‘second breakfast’. All went well with the mixing and baking process, and we managed to not make too big a mess. I came up with an idea she liked, and we made frosting to cover the pretzels as an extra touch. They were so GOOD.

While eating I said that I was thirsty and got up to get myself a drink. Kirsten said, “You can get water Grandpa, no one is stopping you.” Later Kirsten said to my wife, “Grandma, Grandpa is an interesting man.”

Kirsten’s journal is now over 230 pages long and is filled with memories we share. She has taught me about the value of spontaneity, courage, creativity, curiosity and so much more.

My life has been blessed by my relationships with each of these beautiful light beings and I look forward to everything that is yet to come with them.

Lessons or Experiences

From the folks I’ve talked to, there seems to be a consensus that school is focused on learning specific lessons. The expectation appears to be that the student does not know anything, so must be taught by the teacher. Further, it is assumed that the teacher knows what would be valuable for the student to learn.

The closer you are to educational systems, the more you realize that it’s all about the curriculum chosen. There is no way that any one teacher or any one student could know all things, so choices must be made and priorities decided about what to focus on in the classroom.

Inevitably, certain events and facts get lost in the shuffle. And then, there is the tendency to slant important details to suit whoever is in charge.

A glaring case in point was demonstrated to me during one of Maureen’s and my vacations. We visited Vancouver, Canada (absolutely gorgeous, by the way) and were fascinated to discover an enormous mural depicting a series of skirmishes that resulted in Canada winning a major battle against the United States. We looked at each other and asked ourselves, “Didn’t our textbooks say that we won that? We could have sworn they were quite specific on that point.”


Well, no matter. I mean, it happened so long ago. What difference does it really make?

Perhaps, if it were an isolated instance, it wouldn’t matter. But it has ramifications far beyond which side actually won, because it’s unclear if there is a definitive correct answer, so what level of trust can you put in any of your lessons?

Along with many others I know, I come across events in my life and one of my first reactions is to wonder if there is a ‘lesson’ in it for me.

In school we are taught to learn our lessons. If we fail to do that, we’re told, we’ll need to repeat the class, UNTIL we’ve learned our lesson. This is potent stuff, unless you like summer school.

One trip there was enough to cure me. Who would want, after a very long school year, to spend the hot summer in a stuffy classroom trying to relearn a subject you didn’t like in the first place? No one, that’s who.

Here’s the real rub for me.

This whole idea of having to learn our lessons gets carried over into the rest of our lives. When faced with dilemmas and problems that don’t feel resolvable to us, I often hear people say to one another, “well, I guess you’ve haven’t learned your lesson yet.”

Beyond this not being the least bit helpful, it perpetuated the idea that there is one correct answer, and clearly, we’ve missed it.

I’d like to offer an alternative thought for your consideration.

Suppose there are NO specific lessons for you to have to learn. And, of course, this means there are no lessons you have to repeat until you get them right.

What if life is just a series of experiences? Simple experiences, without right and wrong answers. Without implications or attached judgements? Would that change things for you?

When I shift away from ‘lessons’ and focus on ‘experiences’, it makes a powerful difference to me. I can let go of worrying about getting life ‘right’ and open to the treasure inside of each of the experiences I encounter.

I admit that sometimes I have to dig deeply to uncover the treasure, but I’ve found it is always there waiting for me.

Perhaps if you give this shift a chance, you’ll find all of the treasure you are searching for. I certainly hope so.

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