I had the privilege of hanging out with a four-year-old over the weekend. While it was somewhat exhausting, it was also a lot of fun. Children that age are playful and inquisitive. This particular four-year-old listened (for the most part!) and was willing to try almost anything I suggested (whether it was food or a new activity) when framed as an invitation as opposed to a requirement. Thankfully the weather was beautiful so we were able to spend some time outside burning off energy. As we hung out, my four-year-old buddy said and did some things that I thought were good reminders for all of us.
- Be engaged. It’s not enough to simply take a child to the playground and watch as they play. The child feels the physical and emotional distance and will often extend an invitation to engage you. “Come play with me.” Similarly, it’s not enough to simply show up to a meeting or an event. If you deem it important enough to put on your calendar, take the time to prepare for it and engage with others during it. You were invited for a reason; your contributions are valuable.
- Be curious. I lost count of how many times I was asked “why” over the course of the weekend. Every choice I made, activity I suggested, and direction I turned the car toward was greeted with “why.” While we as adults do not need to question every little thing, a healthy amount of curiosity keeps our minds active and helps us observe and develop new things. “The important thing is not to stop questioning… Never lose a holy curiosity.” ~ Albert Einstein
- Be balanced. My husband is a farmer, and if you know anything about farming you understand how grueling the month of October is for farmers as they labor over harvest. My husband’s crazy work schedule over the weekend was hard for the four-year-old to understand. Each night when he went to bed my husband was still at work, and each morning when he woke up my husband was already back at work. His adorably innocent response was, “AGAIN?!” Despite his young age, he appreciates the need for balance between work and play. Fortunately for all of us, I’m happy to report that harvest is almost over and my husband will soon regain a sense of balance in his life!
- Be cared for. I noticed a discrepancy in my little buddy’s determination to do things on his own. Some challenging things he insisted he wanted to do by himself, while other much simpler things he declared he wasn’t capable of doing (even though I had witnessed him successfully do them independently the day before). I may have jumped to conclusions here, but I think he was looking for some good old fashioned TLC (tender loving care). I realized that I do the same thing with my husband! Sometimes we just want someone’s attention focused on us, and an easy way to do that is by asking for help. However, there is a fine line between asking for help and being needy, so if your motive is the person’s attention you might want to preface your request with that information. For example, it’s not that I’m incapable of raking the leaves by myself, it’s just WAY more enjoyable when my husband is out there with me!
- Be rested. After our first day of activities, I was beat. I commented on my fatigue aloud, to which the four-year-old responded, “you should go rest.” If he had been an adult, my response would have been, “oh I can’t go lie down in the middle of the afternoon, my to-do list is too long!” But instead I paused and thought about it. There was nothing on my list that couldn’t wait. My body was telling me it needed to rest, but it wasn’t until I heard the simple permission of a child that I let myself. Rest = refuel = more available for the people we love and the passions we choose to follow.