Lessons I Hope I Learned from a 3-Year-Old

3 Lessons I hope I learned from a 3-year-old

We recently joined our oldest son’s family for a family 5K. (Before you get too impressed with my fitness level, we were in the stroller and toddler wave…not a very demanding event) It was a fun event, and I loved being with the granddaughters. Every time I’m with them I’m reminded how important life’s “little moments” are.

The 5K didn’t circle back and end where we started, so we had to walk the distance back to our car. The older girls were pretty tired and the adults a little impatient, so the youngest became our happy leader.

That sweet 3-year-old reminded me of some valuable lessons that day…

Lesson #1: The journey doesn’t always need to be about getting to the destination.

Although her sisters and parents kept telling her to “c’mon, let’s go have lunch” or “let’s run and catch up with…” she stayed true to her commitment to look at a leaf on the path or to pick up a stick that needed throwing into the bushes.

While I, too, was a little impatient and ready to move on to our next activity, her ability to live in the moment was infectious. I found myself less concerned about getting to our destination and more interested in the things that got her attention.

When I released the need to hurry to the next thing, I was able to experience the joy of being present, right then, in the moment.

Lesson #2: The road less traveled can lead to great adventure.

Sometimes the shortest distance between two points is not the best route. Although we wanted to get back to our cars and on our way, we took a different path than the majority of the other participants, hoping to avoid the crushing crowds.

It took us on a walking path along the Greenbelt which wound in and out and around, taking us by the college (where she had to stop and watch some students playing basketball outside), across the river (where she went from one side of the bridge to the other to see if the view was the same), and passed the zoo (where she saw a giraffe that caused our journey to come to a complete stand-still.)

Each side-trip brought more frustration to everyone but her – she was determined to explore the adventures along the path as if they were the sole purpose for the walk.

If I took the time to see these side trips as adventures instead of obstacles, I was also able to marvel at the ways the college had changed since my time there. I could watch the steady flow of the river and think of times we’ve floated it as a family. I was as impressed as she was by the giraffe – wondering how it got to that zoo, and how it could live somewhere that has snowy winters.

Lesson #3: It doesn’t matter what others think – it matters what you think.

It didn’t matter who was watching, when she wanted to stop and do some Tai Chi poses, she did. If she felt like whistling or singing, she didn’t care who heard her. Any silly little thing she thought of doing, she did without concern for what others thought or said. (To be honest though, when a child that adorable does anything, it’s not silly…it’s dang cute!)

The freedom to express herself was a joy to watch. She asked any question and made any comment that came to mind, without concern someone would think it was “dumb.” Her sisters would tell her what she needed to be doing, but she would just look at them and make her own choices. She knew what she wanted, and she wasn’t going to be talked out of it.

I know a 3-year-old is pretty self-centered, but I started thinking about her attitude in relation to my life: When I’m in a meeting, do I feel as free to ask questions or disagree? Why am I so self-conscious in an exercise class? If I make a decision I think is best for me, am I afraid to tell others because of what they might say or think?

In many ways, a 3-year-old seems wiser than I am at 60.

I’ve been thinking about that walk back to the car with my 3-year-old granddaughter…a lot. I wonder when I gave up my curiosity of the world and the joy of the journey in order to fit into an adult mold. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you don’t have to face the realities of adulthood – I know all too well what it takes to do that.

I’ve just been wondering how I can regain some of a childlike attitude while still being an adult. My granddaughter taught me three lessons that day, and I’d just like to think I learned them.