Sunday, April 12, 2009

Life Lessons Learned from Children

I spent this past week on vacation in Maryland with my sister Julie, her husband Randy, and their five children. It was a joy to be with them. The experience of traveling with children aged 7 and younger reminded me of several life lessons that I had forgotten in my grown up world.

Lesson 1: The English language can be quirky. Have fun with it.
One day we were driving through an intense rainstorm, and my 7-year-old nephew Peter started talking about how not only was it “raining cats and dogs”, but it was raining “saber tooth tigers and golden retrievers”. Here’s a little video of the moment:

Lesson 2: To remember a new vocabulary word, use it in a sentence right away.
“Do you know the meaning of the word avast?”, Peter asked me.

Peter is a little walking dictionary and encyclopedia, which is very fun. He talks about characters in Greek mythology as if they were his neighbors, and knows the meaning of all sorts of words, even ones that his Aunt Cindy doesn't know.

Peter graciously taught me that "avast" means “stop”, and was often said by pirates. So we all did our best pirate imitations, saying,
“Avast aarrrrrgg!”.

The next day, I was pouring milk for 6-year-old Ada, and when she’d had enough, she forcefully said “Avast!” And, of course, I knew exactly what she meant.

Lesson 3: “No” is a very versatile word, useful on many different occasions.
Paul is 18-months old, and is a little sweetheart. He’s also a bit of a tease. He’s just learning to talk, and one morning when he was a little frustrated because he had dropped his water, we had this conversation:

Lesson 4: Often, it’s the small things that bring us joy.
I had forgotten how fun it is to wear curlers. And a tutu. And your favorite color, PINK. Six-year-old Ada and three-year-old Mary Joy reminded me of this.

They also reminded me how fun it is to ride around on a baggage cart.

And Peter reminded me how fun it is to wear stickers that come from supermarket produce on your forehead:

Lesson 5: Live in the moment.
One park we visited had a rope that was used to block off traffic, and the kids had the idea of turning it into a jump rope. I would have missed this fun moment without their influence.

Lesson 6: Happiness is helping people who are smaller than yourself.
I was impressed by the way 7-year-old Peter would buckle his younger siblings into their car seats each time we got into the car. Six-year-old Ada was also very helpful. Here she is helping her younger brother Paul:

Lesson 7: Express your affection to those you love.

Three-year-old Mary Joy obviously loves her baby brother Levi:

I loved seeing 18-month-old Paul running his fingers through his mother’s hair as we watched the LDS Church General Conference.

Lesson 8: If life doesn’t go as planned, adapt.
We had packed and planned for warmer weather, but some days were downright chilly. One way six-year-old Ada adapted was by layering her clothing, like this:

We also adapted by having lunch in the back of Randy’s car, which turned an ordinary picnic into a memorable adventure.

Lesson 9: Take joy in the beauties of the natural world around you.

Mary Joy loved listening to the sounds of the sea in these shells.

The girls love all flowers, even the ones you can pick in your lawn:

I had to smile at this young boy’s description of some of the unique things you can see in the sea:

Lesson 10: A nap is always a good idea
We went to the timeshare office to use their wireless network to watch the LDS Church's General Conference. The office had wonderful window sills, perfect for a kids play area: or even better, a nap:

Lesson 11: When in doubt, improvise.

That's what 3-year-old Mary Joy did when it was her turn to read during the family daily scripture study time. Randy has downloaded the Book of Mormon onto an iPod touch, and each child who wanted to read had to wash his or her hands before getting the privilege of holding the iPod and gently touching it to scroll down through the verses.

When it was Mary Joy's turn, she gently held the iPod in her hands, and then, since she can't read yet, she just made up a scripture herself. "And it came to pass, that there were good people and there were bad people..." she started off as she looked intently at the little screen. She continued for a minute or so, and I was very impressed with her ability to use the language of scripture to make up scripture on the fly.

Lesson 12: A loving family is the best security you can find in this world.

Lesson 13: Parents of young children are true heroes.

I was so impressed by Randy and Julie's devotion to their children, as I watched them change diapers, sacrifice sleep, patiently guide and train their children, and plan activities so their family could have fun together. I don't think I exaggerate when I say that parents of young children are heroes, as they are the ones who are shaping the future and building our society.

At the same time, they are maintaining their own loving marriage; I loved this photo I was able to capture of Randy and Julie flying kites together on the beach.

Thanks to the Johnson family for a wonderful vacation, and for a reminder of life's important lessons.


Julie Johnson said...

Gee, Cindy, that was sure sweet and we had so much fun with you here. Do you mind if I print yours and include it with my journal stuff?

cindyc said...

Go right ahead Julie! Sure love you!

Lori said...

It seems like you and your family has their priorities in the right order. I love to see it. Family rock!!

Paige said...

I love that photo of Randy and Julie. (Almost as much as the hide-n-seek Washington Monument.)

HW said...

Julie has WONDERFUL children. I think I'm in love with Mary Joy. Thanks for sharing them with me, since the only one I've met in real life is Paul, when he was an adorable infant at Grandma's funeral.