Lesson on Being Human from a 3 Year Old

I know it is a cliche to say that we learn as much from our children as they learn from us, but 3 year old Fox is different. From a very early age, we called him the “Little Buddha,” not just because he looked like a Buddha–large forehead, big long ears, and long half-open/half-closed eyes, but also because he would just sit calmly and contently for long periods of time.

Fox Sitting

I can honestly say that I have learned as much from this little soul as I have from any enlightened master. Here are a few highlights:

Apologize quickly, even if you were not at fault–Fox apologizes at the drop of a dime. Even before I notice that he spilled the milk, he will say, “I’m sorry, Daddy.” The other day, I was putting him in his car seat and I hit my head on the door frame–”I’m sorry, Daddy.” Sometimes when my wife and I are sad or upset, he will apologize. He always seems to recognize the pain of others and never questions that pain. Sometimes when my older son gets hurt, I found myself saying, “That didn’t hurt.” Fox never makes this mistake.

How do you get mad at someone when they apologize even before you realize that you have been offended? The penitence and empathy he feels at every moment is his saving grace. He rarely gets into “deep trouble.” We just want to hug him for being so considerate. What if we started apologizing as quickly and sincerely?

I don’t really like the phrase, “I’m sorry,” so when he gets older, I’m going to teach him to say, “Please forgive me.” I probably won’t ever have to give that lesson though, because I have a feeling that when Fox gets older he will be saying, “Please forgive them.”

Let others know when they have hurt you, then forgive immediately–If I ever step on Fox’s toe or accidentally knock him down, he will say indignantly, “Ouch, You did that!” Remembering the previous lesson, I will immediately say, “I’m sorry, Fox. Are you OK?” To which he usually always answers, “It’s OK, Daddy.”

Why do we often let others hurt us without telling them right then and there that we are being hurt? Then we wonder why it is so hard to forgive. I know that some of us have been hurt in situations where we could not tell others that we were being hurt. Or maybe we tried to tell, and no one was listening. I have found that through blogging, I have been able to tell others about my hurt, even if they weren’t the ones who hurt me, and this telling makes me feel so much better. The telling make forgiveness possible.

Fox seems to intuitively know this. He has no problem telling others when he is hurt. Thus, he doesn’t see a problem forgiving those who take responsibility for the hurt.

Hold the ones you love by the ears–Ever since he was young, Fox would hold us by our ears. I never thought about it, but the ears are the only true handles for the head. Even now, on the verge of his 4th birthday (which happens to fall on MLK day), he still grabs the ones he loves by their ears. Pick him up; he grabs your ears. Give him a piggie back ride; he pinches your lobes. Hug him; he cups your entire outer ear.

son sleeping

ear cuddles

“To touch can be to give life.”~Michelangelo

Dacher Keltner, director of the Greater Good Science Center, argues that touch can bring us emotional balance and better health. Yet, I can easily think of times where I felt the desire to touch my wife on her hand, yet I resisted. Maybe I didn’t think that she would reciprocate the touch, maybe I felt self-conscious of how this touch would appear to others, maybe I have a social conditioned aversion to touching.

Keltner mentions a cross cultural study where psychologist Sidney Jourard counted the number of times friends touched each other in a one hour conversation over coffee. In the US, we touched each other twice, but in France they touched 110 times and in Puerto Rico 180 times!

I bet Fox would touch over 180 times in less than an hour. He reminds me of how important it is to reach out and touch someone.

Don’t let anyone talk badly about your loved ones, even when the person talking bad is someone you love–A few weeks ago, I got in a fight with my wife. Fox and I were left alone, so I said, “Mommy always has to be right, and when she is not right, she is mean.”

Fox immediately countered, “NO! I love Mommy.”

I replied, “I love Mommy too, Fox, but sometimes she can be really mean.”

“NO! I love Mommy,” insisted Fox.

It took me a while to realize that Fox was feeling the redemptive love that Adyashanti talks about, the unconditional love that Amma displays, the love beyond reason that John Ortberg writes about. None of these loves have a BUT. Whenever we say, “I love you too, BUT,” we are not loving unconditionally. Whenever we complain or criticize someone or something, we are trying to condition others, reality, and ourselves to fit into a box of what we can love. True love is beyond all boxes. It just is, no questions asked. No conditions. Just love.

Dwell on the good times–Whenever Fox and I do something that he really enjoys, he will always say, “Again.” For example, the other day I was doing a “crazy dance” (little do my sons know, that is the only dance I can do). I was wiggling my butt, shaking my arms, and singing “Like the ceiling can’t hold us.” Every time I stopped, Fox would say, “again.” Finally, I got so exhausted that I had to say, “last time, OK?”

In Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hanson explains how the brain has a negativity bias. If 10 good things happen at work and one bad thing, we will remember the bad thing right before we go to sleep.

“The brain is like Velcro for the bad but Teflon for the good.”~Rick Hanson

To combat this negativity, Dr. Hanson offers a practice called “taking in the good.” He uses the acronym HEAL:

H–Have good experiences

E–Enrich these experiences

A–Absorb the good in these experiences

L–Link these good experiences with times in your past that you have problems with

Fox doesn’t know anything about neuroscience yet, but he practices “taking in the good” every day. By asking me to repeat something that he finds enjoyable, he is enriching the good times. He also absorbs these good times. Sometimes he’ll ask me to repeat something that made him happy months after it happened.

“Daddy, do that funny dance you did when we were setting up the Christmas tree.”

“No, not that dance. The one where you jump up on the couch and do a front roll.”

Sandalwood blessing we accepted for all Bloggers for Peace

Daddy and Me

Fox has a clear memory of all these fun time because he enriches them and absorbs them. For all I know, he links them together in a memory file called “Daddy and me.” This memory file helps him love me unconditionally when I accidentally knock him down.

Thank you for reading, smiling, and/or sharing.

Who or what has taught you how to be human? Please share.

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