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Toddler in flamingo costume
Life Lessons from my Four Year Old

One of the fascinating things about raising a child is discovering new ways of being human and self-expression that I have never considered for myself. The audacity, the autonomy, and the sheer determination are admirable and inspiring life lessons (and a journey to parent, but that's for another blog post). I have been watching my daughter grow up and have noticed things she does fiercely that I need to do more of in my own life. Don't get me wrong, this life stage is wrought with some trials and tribulations, but there are some good nuggets if you're willing to dig for them.

Toddler smiling

So without further adieu, here are four life lessons I have learned from my four year old:

  1. Learn people's names. My child's genuine curiosity prompts her to ask everyone she meets what their name is. This is how we have met our mail woman, our neighbors and their newborn babies, the cashier at Target, and strangers in the aisle at Kroger. She manages to slow her life down enough to not only notice when another human being is present, but considers it important to ask them what their name is. 99% of the time, these adults are not only pleasantly surprised by the ask, but the look of surprise and then joy on their faces are as if they haven't been asked their name all day. Their faces light up when they are called by their name, and it's almost like they are fully seen for who they are - not what they do for work, what they have on their to-do list, or the roles they have to play.
  2. Feel your feelings. My daughter is very attuned to her emotions and expresses them without hesitation. Maybe it's our parenting style to thank, but my kid never wonders if her emotions are worthy of being expressed or shared with us. Yes, there of oftentimes more tears than needed for the moment, but you never have to guess if she's pretending to be "fine". She uses her words to tell you pretty quickly if she's feeling something, and it honestly helps us know how to regulate and problem solve with her. What if I stopped being passive aggressive and just said I was feeling ___ because ___ and I need ____?! I know at least one person (my husband) would greatly appreciate this life lesson...
  3. Make decisions with confidence. Once she developed the motor skills to do things like dress herself and manipulate Duplo Lego blocks, my daughter has made some pretty creative and out-of-the-box decisions around things like fashion and play. She confidently wears the same color head-to-toe, including matching colored underwear. She plays "restaurant" and enthusiastically tells you about the strawberry + fish + corn soup she made for dinner and how very yummy and healthy it is. I'm not out here making pretend soup, but I do have to make decisions in my day-to-day life. What if I did it with a little more confidence and maybe even a little sprinkle of pizazz? Maybe I should wear that "loud" and colorful top to work, because why not?? Decisions made with confidence are actually kind of fun, and when done with some thought and creativity, it's a beautiful way to express ourselves and show the world who we are!
  4. Mistakes are chances to learn and grow. Being a human is hard sometimes. The social rules of life are confusing and don't always make sense (have you had to explain how pointing at strangers and talking about them loudly out of genuine curiosity is not a polite thing to do?). When we make an "oopsie" or an "uh oh", what if we chose to give grace and offer re-dos instead of using shame and guilt? Somehow along the way, we have normalized mistakes so much that before I get a chance to teach and correct her, my daughter will say "oh I made a mistake!" and invites conversation around how we can try again and make a better choice next time.

What life lessons has your four year old taught you?

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