Our children heal us. Over the years, I have seen clear evidence of this simple truth (and other truths!) in my pediatric practice. With each cry, each bruise, each fear, each seemingly unexpected challenge, children remind us to learn, change, grow and more.
I am reminded that our most precious gifts come from our children whose growth and development unfold in stages like the seasons. Our children teach us something special about ourselves every day of the year, as the seasons, too, change and we grow.
1. They give us the gift of grit.
With spring comes new growth and a new direction in our life. This sense of possibility and incipience is mirrored in how we relate to our children, from their birth onward. From the moment our children are born, they demand our attention in body, mind and spirit. They teach us to pay attention to our own body language, to synchronize our movements to theirs, to pace ourselves, to take one day at a time, without getting ahead of ourselves.
Our children require us to imagine the path unfolding before them, to see beyond our own fears and narrow views. This foresight helps us face challenges we never dreamed we could. The embodiment of grit brings greater resilience to our life. Through our children we discover the baby steps of recovery and our life with them becomes a boundless adventure.
2. They give us the gift of zest.
When we think about summer, those moments just after spring has sprung, we no longer think in terms of possibility. Rather, it's a time of plain old fun, excitement and zest. Everyday that our children beg us to play with them, they offer us the gift of zest. They ask us to take ourselves less seriously, to suspend our beliefs and have the courage to pretend, to dare to laugh together even in our darkest moments.
With each new discovery, our children provoke our enthusiasm, helping us find optimism in their wonder and delight. This is like strong medicine for our heart, filling our own day with promise that breaks negative cycles of boredom and depression. Research has shown that the simple joy we feel when exchanging laughter is one of life's greatest healing tonics.
3. They give us the gift of generosity.
The harvest is a time for gathering and sharing the ripening fruit. As we tend to our children's needs, we ripen the tenderness that has been dormant within us. Whether it's sharing our food or sharing our stories with them, the gift of generosity has the power to lessen our pain by teaching us to see the big picture of our life in context. When children open our hearts, their hearts will open in turn.
This is how we harvest our love and pass it on to future generations. As it grows, such generosity can spread to our community and even extend itself to heal the ecology of our planet.
4. They give us the gift of grace.
As if on cue, the autumn leaves fall off the trees with a simple grace that allows us to notice subtler rhythms around us. Our children beg us to pay attention to the patterns in our own life, the question of "how" we do all of what we do: how we eat, how we sleep, how we breathe, how we recover from life's challenges. They take their lead from us, learning what to trust based on our consistency.
To create a safe haven that will empower them, we must learn how to let go of our own disappointments and find forgiveness and gratitude. This gift of grace nourishes our life together through the perfect poise that lies between attachment and detachment.
5. They give us the gift of insight.
At last we come to the quietude of winter, when time seems to stand still and all life goes to sleep deep underground. As we sit with our children before they fall asleep, taking time to listen deeply to them, we cultivate a quiet mind of patience and self-reflection that allows us to stretch our imagination and broaden our perspective.
Our children let us see how far we've come in our own life. Meaning is found in relationships. All education is based on this simple principle. And since there are infinite relationships, there are infinite meanings open to us. Through our relationships with our children, we discover the gift of deep insight that opens the path to an unlimited life of clarity and purpose.
Ultimately, these five offerings have the power to heal our heart because they arise from our children's unconditional love for us. When we make this our practice, every day becomes a gift we carry through the seasons of our life.