I spent this past weekend with my two grandsons, Carmine and Antonio, ages three and five. I remember being in denial about the idea of becoming a grandmother at what I thought was too young of an age for me, but now, I realize it’s been a blessing. I adore my grandkids and they have come to be a source of pure joy for me and because I’m in fairly good condition physically, I’ve been able to actively participate in just about anything these two bundles of energy have wanted to do. We play baseball and Frisbee and run together and climb the jungle gym at the playground. They’ve “practiced” yoga with me and we’ve played in the sand at the beach, and built with LEGO bricks and thanks to my young age and health, I’ve always been able to share with them my energy and enthusiasm.
They too, unknowingly share something very valuable with me when we spend time together. Their free-spirited personalities and their fearlessness – two things we all are born with that slowly diminish with time and experience. This weekend alone was filled with examples of how they live uninhibited and in the moment that we can all learn from. They live next to a high school that sits atop a steep, grassy hill overlooking a newly renovated expanse of school property with soccer, baseball and football fields. The hill is perfect in the winter for sledding, snowboarding and even teaching the little ones to ski. I often take them out the field to run in the wide-open spaces and this weekend we went out there with their bikes. They wanted to climb the hill to ride in the parking lot above, but on the way up, Antonio decided he wanted to ride his bike down the hill. What do you think immediately went through my head? “Maybe he shouldn’t do that.”; “Is it safe?”; “What if he falls?”; “What if he gets hurt?” Was he thinking any of these things? Absolutely not. The only thoughts on his mind were “Here I go!” and “Whoa!” And before I could even say “Wait!”, he had taken off down the hill and reached the bottom safely. In fact, the second time he went down, he took his eyes off where he was going. He began to look to the left, then to the right, then down and eventually lost control of the handlebars and flipped off the bike at the bottom. I told him what I saw and why I think he fell and what do you think he did? Without uttering a sound, he got up, climbed back up the hill and immediately tried again, this time looking straight ahead the whole time. And he was successful from that moment forward, every time he rode down the hill. How many of us would make such an attempt so soon after wiping out? Would we not focus on the failure and be paralyzed with fear, convincing ourselves that we should give up and move on to something else or possibly be afraid to try something else? The spill taught him a valuable lesson about what does not work and he simply used that information to get it right. It allowed him to come out successful and confident.
That night, they wanted me to watch the movie Robots with them so we sat on the sofa for what I thought would be a relaxing and entertaining evening. Relaxing no, but highly entertaining! About ten minutes into it, the movie broke out into a song. Without warning, Carmine jumped off of my lap and began to dance to the music, shaking his bottom and jumping and moving his arms. Pretty soon, Antonio joined in and it turned into a combination dance/martial arts demonstration. Would you believe that the credits were rolling and they were still on the carpet dancing? Maybe my video camera had something to do with that, but not once were they thinking, “Will I look silly if I get up and dance like this?”, “Will I be laughed at?”, “I’m really no good at this, I shouldn’t do it.” How many of us have been in that position, holding back what’s aching to come out for fear of looking silly or not being good enough? Instead, they let their spirits soar and were so filled with happiness and energy. And this was after an entire day of excitement and physical movement. We always wonder where children get their energy. I don’t think we as adults get tired because we become old; I believe this vitality disappears because we lose our courage to live our passions. We can have this type of energy at any age. Our bodies may not perform like those of children, but we can have that life and enthusiasm if we’re doing what we love to do and are not concerned about how we look doing it or what others will think. Because chances are, what they’re thinking is, “Why don’t I have the guts to do that?”
Do you remember a time when you had this fearlessness? Do you remember when your main goals were to have fun in the moment and to express your true selves? I can’t say I do, maybe because I can’t remember back far enough. I remember moments when I was living my passions, but they were often flanked by periods of doubt and uncertainty. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I once resisted becoming a grandmother because of my perceptions of what grandparents “are supposed to be”. My grandchildren are gifts that constantly remind me of the true meaning of living a life of joy. Maybe you’re just beginning to think about having kids or are now raising small children. If so, I know it can be an overwhelming time, but please pay attention to what they’re teaching you. The most profound lessons show up when you least expect them but always when they’re being their authentic selves. I believe this is when you learn the most about them, too. And as much as you can, encourage them to stay that way. Foster the development of their unique talents and capabilities; those things that bring them the most joy and vitality so that some day, they too, won’t have to remember when…