As parents, we know that babies are constantly learning from us and are watching everything we do. But, our kids also teach us valuable lessons about ourselves.
For example, before becoming a mum, I never knew I could function with so little sleep.
I never knew I could multi-task the way I can now. And I never knew that I could read Peekaboo Farm fifty times without wanting to gouge my own eyes out.
Babies have a unique approach to life. Of course, much of this is due to their young brains, and the fact that they haven’t developed skills like empathy, problem solving, and self-awareness.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – in many ways, babies have a better approach to living life.
Here are five reasons why:
1) Babies don’t care about appearances
Babies don’t judge people based on their hair, makeup, outfit, shoes, and accessories. They don’t care if you’re wearing a five dollar outfit or a fifty dollar outfit. They don’t think about whether your backside is too big, too small, or too saggy. They don’t care if they have mashed potato in their hair or odd shoes. Or no shoes.
Babies have something far more important to occupy their mind – exploration!
They’re incredibly curious about what’s going on around them, and that’s more interesting to them than what they or others look like.
Perhaps babies are smarter than we think. Perhaps they realise, on some level, that appearances are deceiving. Perhaps they know that looks change, that hair gets dirty, that clothes get messy, and that makeup gets wiped away. Perhaps they recognise that what really matters are their daily adventures, which create memories that last forever.
There’s only so much that the human brain can process at any one time. Think of it like our paycheck. The more we spend on clothes, the less we have to spend on food and rent. In the same way, the more we focus our attention on the way we look, or on judging others (and ourselves) on appearances, the less focus we have for other things – like learning, growing, contributing, and sharing.
Imagine if we all spent a little less time thinking about the way we look, how much extra mental energy we could devote to the things that really matter in life?
2) Babies don’t care about material possessions
Babies don’t really care about having the latest, and greatest toys. They’re often just as happy playing with empty juice cups as they are playing with a $50 stacking set.
They realise that what’s important isn’t the toy itself or what it cost – it’s the experience it gives.
Sensory books are great, but aren’t babies just as entertained with a dollop of oatmeal and a handful of cooked rice? Do we really need to buy expensive kiddie instruments, when they much prefer banging a wooden spoon against a cardboard box?
Don’t get me wrong – I think toys and books are great, if you have the space and money for them. But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we need them in order to provide an “enriched” environment for our babies.
To a baby, anything and everything is an opportunity to learn. And they don’t care how fancy it is, or how much it cost.
3) Babies don’t compare themselves to other babies
Oh, how we parents LOVE to compare ourselves to others! Who had the most natural delivery? Who is ahead, developmentally? Who is enrolled in the most baby activities and classes?
Comparing ourselves to others is natural – but relying on it to feel competent or confident, can be a problem.
Babies don’t actually think about how they measure up compared to others. As long as they’re fed, clean, warm, and happy, their focus tends to be on the world beyond themselves, and discovering, learning, and exploring. If it’s not affecting them in the immediate term, then they don’t care about it. And they have more mental energy to focus on other things (see #1).
4) If something is wrong, babies let you know
Babies don’t muck around. If they are displeased with something, they will let us know (often loudly).
There’s no passive-aggression, no snide remarks, and no sarcasm. They don’t use double-speak or expect others to infer meaning from their behaviour.
If something is wrong, they let us know, in the clearest and most direct way that they can. If not, then they move on.
5) Babies don’t worry about other people’s opinions
We vaguely know when babies are expected to do certain things, like walking or talking. But too many parents treat “the charts” as some kind of religion.
Babies really don’t care about what the doctors, nurses, and child specialists say that they should be doing. Not crawling yet? Not interested in solids yet? Not speaking in nine foreign languages or changing their own nappy yet? (whoops, sarcasm alert. See point #4 above).
The reality is, babies get there when they’re ready. And they don’t care if that’s not fast enough for our liking.
Their motto, if they had a motto, would probably be: progress, not speed. As long as our babies aren’t regressing (i.e. losing skills that they’ve otherwise learned), they’re probably just taking things slowly.
Of course, there are some babies who show severe delays or regressions, which significantly affects their health, wellbeing, and/or daily functioning. In situations like this, it’s wise to consult with a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
But for the vast majority who are just a little “late”, for whatever reason – these babies don’t really care if they’re “behind” the others. Again, as long as they’re happy, fed, warm, etc – they are happy to take their time and do things when they’re ready.
The more time we spend with our little ones, the more we can appreciate their unique approach to the world. And, just as they depend on us to learn and grow, so can we take on some of their perspectives on life, to also learn and grow.
What things do your children teach you? Share with us in the comments.