During the first year of his life, my little nephew would cry every time I came near him. They say that children have greater awareness of their environment than adults and can sense things more than we can. Perhaps he could sense I was anxious and in a bad place in my life at that time? Whatever the reason, it’s been an incredible turnaround, as we are now very close. I would go as far to say that he is the best thing that’s happened in my life since my second bout of anxiety. Partly because, as with most toddlers, he is a joy to be around and makes me laugh. But also because the very nature of a young child, the way they act and live in the moment, is exactly what most of us adults have lost touch with and ultimately, need to re-learn.
Mindfulness, meditation and “living for now” are phrases that you’ll see popping into the mainstream more and more in the next few years. Finally, Western culture is beginning to realise that what has been a staple of Eastern culture for thousands of years, is not some wacko, new-age bullshit but something absolutely crucial to living a healthy, happy life.
In our ultra busy, stressful, ego-driven and chaotic lives, we have forgotten how we were as kids, when we were carefree and everything was full of wonder.
I watch my nephew with fascination as he just does whatever he feels like from moment to moment. One minute he’s squiggling orange circles over a drawing of a dinosaur, the next minute he’s splashing bars of soap around inside a sink. One moment he’s trying to find the “pink one” on the globe (England!) the next moment he’s chasing me around the room with a feather duster. He’s not thinking about what happened last week, or yesterday or even half an hour ago, when his Mum was telling him off for screaming or he bumped his head on the door and cried. He’s certainly not worried about the future. There is no future for a 2 year old. It’s all about NOW.
THE WASHING MACHINE DRAGON
What I love about my nephew most is that he brings out the child out in me. Not that difficult, admittedly! Being an uncle is the perfect role for me. I can mess around and act silly with none of the responsibility of having to actually look after him! So I’m really more like a (slightly!) older brother, in that I spend much of the time teasing him and getting him to say and do things which amuse me (though not always his mother!). Where else could I have such fun as telling him that there is a dragon inside the washing machine and if he just comes a little closer, he’ll be able to see it…..no closer than that…….come closer he’s hiding at the back……..a bit closer………ROOOOAAAAAARRRRR!!!!
Now, the story doesn’t end there because I actually upset him by doing that! He wasn’t scared but the look on his face, as his bottom lip came out and he trudged into the living room, told me that he wasn’t happy I’d tricked him (he knew dragon’s weren’t reeeeaaaalll!). So I felt kinda bad, as I just wanted to make him giggle when I surprised him. Anyway, he goes off to play with his grandma and half an hour later, walks tentatively towards me. The dragon incident is still playing on his mind because his grandma tells me he came to find me because he wants to get me back for tricking him……………by tickling me! Which he tried (very poorly but I won’t criticize, he is 2) and then burst out laughing as I squirmed around as if he was a master tickler!
The point of the story (and there is one!) is that when we are little kids, we don’t hold grudges for long. Wouldn’t it be amazing if every conflict could be resolved with a tickle? But what adults do, is carry around emotional baggage often for our ENTIRE LIFE! I know that our own baggage is usually a lot tougher than being tricked into thinking an imaginary dragon was inside a washing machine but the principle remains the same. If we don’t face our issues, forgive our past and live in the now, we’ll always be holding ourselves back from moving forward.
Kids also have an uncanny way of forcing us to be present and focus on what is important. I’m going through a huge period of transition in my life and naturally, that means I have a lot of ups and downs. Some days I feel so grateful and excited and positive but the next day, out of nowhere I can feel nervous and unstable. Yesterday, I was really down. Then my nephew came round and cheered me up. As he was leaving, he came to see me on his own and for the first time, he asked me for a kiss goodbye. He’d never done this without prompting from an adult before. I was surprised and gave him a quick peck.
He pulled away, looked straight at me and said “That wasn’t a very good kiss!” and came back for a better one!
I felt like my heart was going to explode. But more than that, I suddenly realised that if I had been where I want to be in life (living in London, with a busy lifestyle, large circle of friends and exciting career) I would not be as close to my nephew as I am. I get to see him every week. I’d be lucky if I saw him once a month with the life I’m aiming for. And that’s what I generally feel down about; the fact I’m not where I want to be in life. But I can’t put a price on what I’ve learned from a 2 year old. What we can all learn, from a child.
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